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Australian Schoolgirls claim win

Australian Schoolgirls in Fiji

Australian Schoolgirls claim win

Author : Colleen Edwards NRL Reporter

Australian Schoolgirls claim win in inaugural tour match

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As the Australian Schoolboys team travelled to Fiji last week on their 50th celebration tour, 17 girls were also making history of their own, writing a new chapter for women’s rugby league.

The boys posted an impressive 58-13 win during the anniversary of schoolboys program which first toured in 1972.

An inaugural Australian Schoolgirls side – the first team to travel and to play in an international fixture – joined the boys as part of the Australian Secondary Schools Rugby League tour, with coach Melissa Spero saying the experience was “amazing”.

“The hospitality and generosity shown to us by the Fijian people will never be forgotten by our team,” Spero said.

“Even when the game itself fades, it’s the loving nature of these people welcoming us into their country that will be remembered forever. To share this experience with these girls and see how it changes their lives is something that will always stay with me.”

Inaugural 2022 Australian Schoolgirls team announced

While the team were victorious, posting a 48-0 win, the tour was about more than just the game and the result, with Spero saying the entire camp would help develop the girls into the future, especially with many of them aspiring to reach further representative honours.

“Rugby league is more than just the skills and ability of players on the field, and this is something we made sure that the girls understood,” Spero said.

“We felt it was very important that we set a professional environment for the girls and had them striving on and off the field.

“One thing the Jillaroos place a big focus on is living by their values, not just for the tour, but for their everyday life.

“I felt it was important that we established the same expectations for the young Jillaroos.

We had a session presented by Veronica White that ensured our current players understood where our game had started, who the pioneers were and what sacrifices had been made for the opportunities that are now provided for them.”

One of the players who took hold of the opportunity with two hands was Ebony Raftstrand-Smith, who has had a big year on the representative front.

As well as starring for the Queensland Schoolgirls with a hat-trick in their 30-6 win against New South Wales in the curtain-raiser to State of Origin Game III

She also made her second appearance for Queensland City on Hostplus Cup grand final day.

“The experience in Fiji was very cool, especially being able to go and play against another country,”

Raftstrand-Smith – who is the younger sister of Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons and Gold Coast Titans player Tiana Raftstrand-Smith said.

“It was also a very proud moment being able to represent our country and being the inaugural Australian school girls team.

“Being part of the Queensland Schoolgirls was a great experience (as well), getting to play for our state and getting the win against NSW … I was even able to score a hat-trick.

“But being a part of the inaugural Queensland Schoolgirls team was also proud moment.”

Ebony Raftstrand-Smith with the ball for the Queensland Schoolgirls. Photo: NRL Images

Ebony Raftstrand-Smith with the ball for the Queensland Schoolgirls. Photo: NRL Images

While in Fiji, both touring teams were able to meet with and engage with their hosts, with a school visit a particular highlight.

“In Fiji, we got to visit a school where they showcased us many of their traditional dances and even one of their traditional games,” Raftstrand-Smith said.

“Even just getting to meet the students and playing games with them was really cool.”

Spero said the trip to the school and a visit to the High Commission demonstrated the importance of tours like this.

“I think the school visit by far was the highlight for both teams,” Spero said. “Players and staff got to experience firsthand the beautiful hospitality of the Fijian people, despite not having much at all, they were full of love and generosity.

“Everyone was humbled by the experience.

“Dinner at the High Commission also something to remember. It certainly shows the importance of this tour to have both teams invited to visit the Australian High Commission and chat to the dignitaries present.”

A ground-breaking event for female participation in the game, Spero was excited for what was to come and said the tour would play a big part in helping to develop the next generation of stars.

“The last thing I wanted the girls to take away from being in the squad was to understand the professional standards that they will need to bring into their game for the future,” Spero said.

“With the NRLW expanding next season and women’s rugby league growing at a rate not many sports are seeing, I see a very big future for each and every one of these girls.

“Knowing what they achieved on our tour in such a short amount of time and what is a head of them on their playing careers, I know that they will be successful if that’s the path they choose to take.”

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