Meet the uncapped Aussies ready to stake their Test claim against England

Thu, Oct 19, 2023, 7:00 AM
Lachlan Grey
by Lachlan Grey
Wallaroos debutants Desiree Miller* (left), Brianna Hoy (centre) and Sarah Dougherty* (right) in Wellington. Picture: RA/Brendan Hertel
Wallaroos debutants Desiree Miller* (left), Brianna Hoy (centre) and Sarah Dougherty* (right) in Wellington. Picture: RA/Brendan Hertel

The list of Wallaroos could grow as high as #205 on Friday with uncapped duo Desiree Miller and Sarah Dougherty (née Lewis) named on the pine for Australia’s WXV1 opener against England.

Waratah Brianna Hoy will become Wallaroo #203 after being selected in the starting XV at loosehead prop but she’s not the only rookie eyeing a gold jersey.

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Miller’s star shone brightly throughout Super W 2023 with the Waratahs rookie drawing praise for her finishing ability out wide and sharp goalkicking while Dougherty’s inclusion follows another strong season inside Wallaroos flyhalf Carys Dallinger at the Reds before joining the national set-up through 2023.

“The first person I messaged was my partner and the first person I called was actually a group call with my family,” Miller said on Thursday.

"They were obviously really excited for me and these past 48 hours have been nothing but love and support, not just from my family but from my friends, people back home. It’s been really nice and it’s given me a lot of confidence walking to this weekend.”

Miller’s path to a gold jersey began in soccer, swimming, gymnastics, and dance before turning to her family’s game – rugby.

"Growing up I played all sports, however many as I could possibly … (but) during lockdown I just wasn’t enjoying my soccer as much, so I decided to hang up those boots and started kicking the footy around with my brother at the park.

"Next thing you know, I was trying out for Easts.

“My dad and grandfather played, a lot of my uncles and cousins played … and it’s something my brother and I have really taken on together.

Miller credits her soccer background with developing her goalkicking prowess – something she’s eager to develop as “an edge” when fighting for Wallaroos selection – but stopped short of committing to on-field gymnastics.

“When I was kicking the soccer ball around in lockdown and then I tried the footy, it translated really nicely. The connection was really good.”

“I feel soccer has helped me a lot in that sense, with the strike on the ball. I might have to go back to kicking that ball around to keep that connection fresh and strong.

“My mum’s been saying all year even that if you score, you’ve got to do a backflip … I haven’t practiced in a while but maybe I can do one or two before the game tomorrow, we’ll see.”

Meanwhile Dougherty would become one of Hervey Bay’s first Test representatives if given her chance on Friday and will draw inspiration from her fellow halfbacks inside the Test cauldron.

“It's really special, going through school (rugby) union wasn't a massive focus so I figured it'd be really nice to give back and show that it's an avenue people from that area can get into,” Dougherty said.

“I've been fortunate that there's been some really strong nines in the Wallaroos in the past like Ili (Ilisava Batibasaga) and there's been lots of people to look up to that have been successful. I do like to watch the men's game a lot and try and model how I play off them as well.

“Playing for the Reds, I know Tate McDermott's a very skilful and electric player I like to watch as well, so plenty of inspiration from those who've come before and my team back home.

“I’d like to say I bring some speed and electricity with my running and clearing the ruck, also a bit of a kicking game.

Dougherty has trained inside both Dallinger and Arabella McKenzie this week and says she’s ready to slot in wherever required come Friday evening.

“In terms of preparation we do try out multiple combinations, so I've had good time with both (Dallinger and Arabella McKenzie). Carys obviously being in the Reds I've had plenty of time with her during Super W season and I’m fitting in nicely with Bella as well.”

The Wallaroos kick off against England in Wellington this Friday 20 October at 5pm AEDT. All WXV1 games will be broadcast live and on demand on Stan Sport.

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