Captain proud of baby Jillaroos' resurgence
RUGBY LEAGUE: Australian skipper Ali Brigginshaw will enjoy a well-earned break before resuming training with Brothers Ipswich in January and beginning preparations for the high-octane NRL 9s.
The star playmaker was instrumental as the Jillaroos bounced back from their shock World Cup 9s loss to dismantle the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns 28-8 at Wollongong last weekend.
The comprehensive performance cast asunder any residual demons which may have lingered following the two-point 17-15 grand final upset at Sydney's Bankwest Stadium less than a week prior.
Controversy shrouded the conclusion of that tournament when several Kiwi Ferns preoccupied with celebrating what they had just achieved neglected to shake the hands of their counterparts.
The oversight raised the ire of the Australians and ensured an intense opening to their latest encounter.
Brigginshaw said the women in black deserved the 9s triumph and it showed competition between the nations was healthy but relinquishing the trophy after dominating the weekend had hit the Aussies hard, while the spiteful finish only fanned their burning desire to reverse their fortunes.
"We wanted the girls to come out firing,” she said.
"I don't think they were deliberately being rude.
"They were just caught up in winning but I was a bit disappointed.
"So there was definitely some fire there.
"We are all competitors and we all want to win.
"After a loss anyone would come out like that.”
The Broncos premiership conductor said seven women represented their country for the first time and it was particularly satisfying to return to form in such convincing fashion over the squad's arch nemesis given the influx of inexperience.
"It was awesome to beat the Kiwis with so many young girls in the team,” Brigginshaw said.
"We had seven debutants and we were able to pull off a performance like that after being under-the-pump for the first 15 minutes.
"I'm very pleased.
"The girls did a great job.”
Australia conceded several early penalties, handing their opponent territorial advantage and a lion's share of possession throughout the fierce opening exchanges.
However, with Brigginshaw at the helm they maintained composure and their resilience was rewarded when she sent second rower Tallisha Harden over for the first points.
Moments later, the Aussies led 10-0 through a penalty try awarded after Brigginshaw chased her own grubber close to the line, only to be brought down by the outstretched leg of Kiwi fullback Apii Nichols.
The match highlight came in the 31st minute when Brigginshaw collected the ball at the base of a scrum 55m out and spun the ball to five-eighth Kirra Dibb who executed a pinpoint kick which bounced perfectly into the bread basket of a charging Jess Sergis.
The Dragons standout planted the ball under the black dot to increase the lead to 16-0.
New Zealand crossed before the break to cut the deficit but the Australians were well and truly in control of the contest at 18-4.
Upon return to the field, the Kiwis continued their resurgence, scoring first before the Jillaroos sealed the victory late with tries to Kezie Apps and Shakiah Tungai.
Halfback Brigginshaw controlled the game and kept her young teammates calm in the furnace of test football.
She praised the coaching staff's game management and anointed hard-working lock forward Hannah Southwell as the most valuable player on field.
"Every time I looked over she was underneath picking them up and she is only a small girl,” she said.
"She is amazing.”
The commanding result preserves the green and gold's impressive test record against their trans-Tasman rival with the side unbeaten at the game's highest level since 2016.
Brigginshaw will savour a holiday with family before ramping up preparations for next season with Brothers Ipswich in January and the NRL 9s, which will be held at Perth's 20,500 capacity HBF Park on February 14 and 15.
The talent-stacked Brothers line-up is determined to go all the way to the title and is searching for fresh talent to bolster their roster.
Brigginshaw said it was a close-knit group of girls who had a great time and left nothing on the field as they strived to reach a common goal.
She encouraged anyone interested in joining to contact her via ali.brigginshaw@ gmail.com