Wallaroos looking to create legacy with England victory

Sat, Oct 29, 2022, 4:50 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Wallaroos flyer Mahalia Murphy catches up with some of her teammates during camp at the Gold Coast.

Sunday's game might be the toughest in Wallaroos history. It might also be its most important.

The Wallaroos understand the task at hand and what awaits them in Auckland.

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The Red Roses are in the process of creating a legacy and have been an unstoppable force for the best past of the last half-decade as they break countless win, viewing and attendance records.

They are expected to cruise past the Wallaroos, with most bookmakers putting the Australians at $30+ odds to get the job done.

For context, Wallabies' matches at Eden Park usually only just trickle into double digits whilst the Socceroos' World Cup opener against France has them at $13.

In fact, you'll find it tough to find an Australian side at longer odds in a head-to-head contest, particularly an oval-shaped ball sport.

Whilst the Wallaroos are leaps and bounds better than what the odds suggest, it paints a fair picture of the task it will take to upset England.

With that task comes an even greater reward though.

In the short-term, it puts Jay Tregonning side's in the prime position to improve on their third-place finish in 2010 and opens up the World Cup.

They'll fancy themselves against the winner of the USA and Canada, having improved significantly since Pacific Four, putting them on a doorstep of a historic Final.

However, long term it could be the landmark moment that takes the Wallaroos to the next level.

“It’ll be massive. We understand and everyone understands just how good England is and to be the team to put them under pressure and get that result would be fantastic,” assistant coach Sione Fukofuka said.

“It’d also be great for Women’s Rugby in Australia. There’s a whole lot of work to present our game to a younger audience that’s starting to get traction.

“It’s definitely massive. Our team has been working really harder to put our best foot forward to perform for Australia Rugby," returning outside back Mahalia Murphy added.

“Especially having the World Cup in 2027, it just the nation the awareness of our game and support for that World Cup.

“We’ve had a tough year trying to get our combinations right and we can only see in the past five weeks we’re starting to come together better and hopefully we can put a good performance together.”

To knock off a professional program would send shockwaves through the Rugby community on a national and international scale, given the perfect platform to do so on Channel 9.

Even a similar start to their opener against the Black Ferns helps continue to draw eyes to the team with a golden decade to come, headlined by a home World Cup in 2029.

“This is what you play footy for, to challenge yourself and play the best of the best,” centre Sharni Williams said.

“It cements where we are at this World Cup and showcases to the people back home that we are here, we are ready to play and we are Aussies and that Aussie spirit will show through.

“If you just keep winning you’ll get things. That’s what we are going to do, we’re going out and putting our best performance out there and you haven’t seen the best of the Wallaroos yet and we’re going to do that in the quarter-finals."

It's almost fitting the match is held less than 20 minutes away from Westhaven Marina, the home of American Cup champions Team New Zealand's, because the Wallaroos enter as a similar level of underdogs to Australia II in 1983.

The underdog tag is one no Australian will pass up on and it's a trait relished by these Wallaroos.

This was on full display in the first half against the Black Ferns and only goes to another level with the natural Australia-England rivalry added into the mix.

“We are pumped to give it to the Red Roses and everyone loves an underdog back in Australia so this one is for you guys," scrumhalf Iliseva Batibasaga mentioned during the week.

"We’re taking it back to the first week when we came up against New Zealand, it’s whatever it takes. We’re the giant slayers so hopefully, we can maintain that."

“As soon as you get the sisterhood together, we’re able to play front foot footy. We will be in the trenches together. That’s the Aussie spirit and fighting for each other, not being individuals," Williams added.

"The underdog mentality can really make you go out and fight for each other. 

"For us, standing next to each other and going out there looking each other in the eye going ‘it’s do or die’ for us so let’s go out there and do our best for each other and Australia.”

What's powering the quiet confidence within the Australian camp is the continual hunt for the 80-minute performance, a white whale of sorts that has been seen in patches but never for long enough for the Wallaroos to blow out an opponent.

If there's a stage to do it, this is it, with the team looking to peak at the right moment.

"It’s a quarter-final of a World Cup and just like the Black Ferns at Eden Park, there was a really slow build-up but you feel the energy in the back end of the week,” Fukofuka noticed.

“We’ve started to see it Thursday and Friday, you can see there are some pretty hungry girls ready to perform on the big stage at their best.”

RA CEO Andy Marinos has outlined the pathway to professionalism, with all roadmaps pointing towards 2025.

This comes with an understanding the sport is still in recovery from the effects of COVID, which at the time Chairman Hamish McLennan admitted the extent almost saw the Wallabies join their counterparts as semi-professionals.

With private equity lurking in the background, a win of this magnitude may leave little option but to see those plans and the Wallaroos' profiles hit the accelerator button.

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