Friedrichs in for the ride as women's rugby goes pro

Tue, Mar 7, 2023, 10:59 PM
Murray Wenzel - AAP
by Murray Wenzel - AAP
Georgina Friedrichs has been named 2022 Wallaroos Player of the Year. Photo Supplied
Georgina Friedrichs has been named 2022 Wallaroos Player of the Year. Photo Supplied

Georgina Friedrichs never played rugby union as a child and hadn't debuted for Australia a year ago.

Now the centre is the Wallaroos' reigning player of the year, dreaming of how much better she and her team can be as professionalism grasps the women's program.

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The NSW Waratahs gun's first steps in rugby were with Queensland and Australia's rugby sevens program as an 18-year-old.

A hip injury and subsequent lay-off eventually steered her towards the 15-a-side game, in which national squad members will be placed on part-time contracts for the first time this year.

It's a step towards the eventual goal of a fully professional program ahead of hosting the Women's Rugby World Cup in 2029.

The Wallaroos made this year's World Cup quarter-finals but remain a level below the world's best without the financial support of their sevens equivalent, which boasts Olympic, World Series, World Cup and Commonwealth Games trophies.

"I grew up playing tough football. Playing rugby I never aspired to until I was in my later teens, and it's created so many opportunities in life," she told reporters after receiving her player of the year honour on Tuesday.

"I was watching old footage the other day to see where I was, even just over 12 months ago.

"It's exciting to see the growth in my game and where I'll hopefully be in 12 months, or two years leading into the next World Cup.

"And you could see how much we grew as a team."

Friedrichs thanked her family for "coming to any game, anywhere in the world" and, in a nod to their semi-pro status, her husband for cooking her dinner after late-night training sessions.

Wallaroos coach Jay Tregonning paid credit to the centre on her journey to becoming a core leader of the squad.

"From her debut Test against Fiji in May, through to the quarter-final against England at the Rugby World Cup," he said.

"She has a calming presence within the leadership group, inspiring her teammates with her courage and work ethic.

"Her skills on the field and her humour have been an incredible addition to the Wallaroos squad."

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