Sibling sacrifice for Jillaroos

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Updated: November 15, 2017

Such is the seriousness of the Jillaroos’ quest to defend their World Cup crown, Australia coach Brad Donald will deny Elianna Walton the chance to line up against sisters Stephanie and Eliza Wilson in the opening fixture against Cook Islands on Thursday.

In a unique scenario, Walton will go from helping coach the Cook Islands as they qualified for the tournament to playing in a second World Cup for the Jillaroos after having made her international debut in 2008. 

Donald will rest the experienced prop for the opening encounter due to the fact the Jillaroos will host England just three days later. That match will be the second of three in a week. 

“One of the great attributes of the team is the selflessness of the team,” Donald said at the Women’s Rugby League World Cup launch in Sydney on Tuesday.

“[The short turnarounds] are not ideal but it’s something we’re all managing together, and talking to the other coaches we will all have different strategies to do the best we can.

“Having 24 players in camp will certainly help that, and the World Cup officials have done a great job to make sure we’ve got access to recovery systems and resources.”

The oldest of the three sisters, Walton will watch Stephanie and Eliza take on a heavyweight Australian outfit at Southern Cross Group Stadium. 

While both Wilson women expressed their disappointment in not being able to face their older sibling, Walton had accepted the decision. 

“I understand where [Donald] wants to go with the vision and I’m more of an impact playing a tier-one nation than a tier-two side,” Walton told NRL.com.

“I’m getting emotional talking about it but I’m very proud they get to play on the international scale alone.

“I get to watch and cheer them on while watching my Jillaroos teammates which is a special moment itself. It would have been good to get out there but it’s not meant to be.”

Walton said her parents had flown from New Zealand to witness the three-week tournament, which kicks off when every side steps out in Cronulla on Thursday.

“I left my Jillaroos gear on the bed and my sister did the same thing with her Cook Islands gear, so I’m waiting to see what they choose to wear,” Walton said.

“Maybe now I’m not playing they will go for the Cooks for this first game. They’re happy either way, but torn.”

Meanwhile, Donald dismissed talk that anything less than a Jillaroos tournament victory would be a disappointing campaign for the squad.

Australia are undefeated against the Kiwi Ferns in 2017, and are coming off a 42-4 victory over the PNG Orchids last month. 

“There is an expectation and we’re comfortable with that,” Donald said. “The girls and coaching staff are comfortable with the fact that our purpose is to retain the World Cup.”

The team will finish their group fixtures with a match against Canada on November 22.  

Donald admitted his knowledge of the lesser-known nations is clouded.

“We’ve seen Canada play in a trial match and the Cooks play a couple of weeks ago,” Donald said.

“We’ve seen snippets of the English, they are a little bit of an unknown but we know they will be strong.

“They’ve had a female version of the Super League in a shorter format over there this year, and from all reports the players that are coming back for a second or third World Cup are going to be stronger.”

This article first appeared on NRL.com

Source: http://www.bulldogs.com.au/news/2017/11/14/sibling_sacrifice_fo.html





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