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K-Train Karpani ready for emotional Wallaroos Test in home city of Adelaide

Thu, 25/08/2022, 7:53 am
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Wallaroos fullback Lori Cramer recounts how the First Nations Yugambeh anthem came to fruition.

The K-Train will be at full throttle on Saturday night when the Wallaroos unleash Adelaide product Eva Karpani for a Test start in her home city.

Wallaroos coach Jay Tregonning revealed it had been “an emotional moment” for Karpani in Thursday's team meeting when she heard she’d be at prop to face the Black Ferns.

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Her ninth Test will be played at Adelaide Oval in the city where she took her first strides as a young rugby player for the local Onkaparinga, Souths and Brighton rugby clubs.

Harnessing her X-factor qualities of explosive speed and power with the technical demands of scrummaging has been an exciting and ongoing project.

At 26, it’s her time. Nail this starting assignment against the Black Ferns and there are wonderful opportunities for her at the Rugby World Cup starting in October in New Zealand.

“Obviously, Eva has a lot of family down here in Adelaide. She was fairly emotional when she found out she’d be starting,” Tregonning said.

“I made sure she understood it was not a sentimental selection because she’s from Adelaide. It’s an outstanding and deserved opportunity.”

Tregonning has a high regard for what Karpani offers. Her runaway 60m try for the NSW Waratahs against the Melbourne Rebels was one of the most mesmerising moments from the entire Super W season.

Anyone watching her dynamic cameos for the University of Adelaide during the Aon Women’s University Sevens Series in 2017 had an early handle on her capabilities.

She swats, rather than fends, away pesky defenders at times. She steamrolled opponents or shook them off when she ran. She put on a little footwork to beat backs on the outside. It’s all done with terrific balance.

Karpani has been seen as very much an impact player capable of big moments. Finding that consistency across longer periods with dominant tackles, workrate, set piece solidarity and her running game has taken longer.

Karpani was on the radar as a 16-year-old in 2013 when she played sevens beside future Olympic gold medallists Charlotte Caslick and Emma Tonegato at the Australian Youth Olympics Festival in Sydney.

Her testing results were superb...top three for quickness and size.

She was also responsible for a classic quip there after several full-on days and a group talk from a nutritionist.

The teenage Karpani had a question: “Is there a Krispy Crème at the airport?”

Karpani is thrilled about Saturday’s starting assignment and said so after Thursday’s training session in Adelaide.

“I feel super-excited and super-privileged. There’s so much support going on for the Wallaroos and Wallabies in Adelaide I can’t wait to rip in,” Karpani said.

Even though she now plays for the Waratahs, her childhood links to SA are unbreakable. Representing her country is powerful.

“I first got involved with rugby at Onkaparinga, with my siblings, when I was 15. I can never forget my roots. I can’t wait to rip in and show everyone,” she said.

“It means the world to hold the flag high and represent my country.”

Youngster sister Simone has won a promotion of her own and will start for the Newcastle Knights on the Gold Coast in Sunday’s NRLW round.

Tregonning is hopeful the new-look front-row of Karpani, Adiana Talakai and the vastly experienced Liz Patu can step up against the Black Ferns.

“Eva’s scrummaging has been a work-on for her and she has put in the effort to keep improving,” Tregonning said.

“Liz has always been an outstanding player. She has been working really hard physically. Now she’s back in the side she can show that drive that she’s one of the very best in Australia.”

Tregonning said the Wallaroos had harnessed a strong attitude to seek a sizeable improvement on last weekend’s jolting 52-5 tumble to the Kiwis in Christchurch.

“We were a bit shellshocked with the result but there’s been no step back this week. We are after a big improvement,” Tregonning said.

“We did see chances in Christchurch. One thing we have spoken about a lot this week is a lot more effort off the ball so we are in position earlier to take advantage of those chances.

“We are going in with an attacking mindset.”

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