Wednesday 22 November 2017 / 02:15 AM

KEZIE CREDITS BACKYARD FOOTY FOR JILLAROOS JOURNEY

Jillaroo Kezie Apps Credits Her Brothers For Her Rugby League Journey

Growing up on a dairy farm in Bega on the south coast of New South Wales, there weren’t many options for a young girl wanting to play a contact sport.

The family backyard was the cauldron that ignited Kezie Apps’ rugby league passion and helped develop the skills and fortitude that has made her such a tough competitor and key member of the Jillaroos squad.

“Netball was a no for me. You could play rugby league against the boys up until the age of 12 but there was only one other girl two years older than me playing,” Apps told Commentary Box Sports.

“I started playing rugby league because of my two older brothers (Deon and Ryan). We played in the backyard and they both suggested I play. My dad encouraged me and my mum wasn’t so keen but it was just in the family and that’s how I started playing for the Bega Roosters.

“I really love the physical side (of rugby league). I love defending and that’s because I grew up with two older brothers that were very physical with me. We always used to wrestle and that sort of stuff.

“You don’t feel the pain at the time. Obviously you get a bit sore the day after a match.”

Apps who was the Dally M Female Player of the Year in 2016, broke her leg playing against the Kiwi Ferns at the Auckland Nines in February this year before coming back in July to star in NSW’s 22-6 Origin win over Queensland. Apps was named player of the match.

The star second-rower described the recent announcement by the NRL and Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) of a $3.75 million boost to elite women’s rugby league as “so important and very well deserved.”

“All the hard work by players prior to where we are now and what the girls had to go through to represent their country was insane,” she said.

“We are very grateful for what they (past players) have gone through to get to this point where we will get money to help us be the best football players that we can.”

Apps is not sure if she will have a job following the Rugby League World Cup after
she gave up a fulltime personal trainer role recently and moved to Wollongong to give herself the best possible preparation. Casual work with the NRL and St George Illawarra Dragons has helped keep the wolves from the door.

With Channel 7 broadcasting and streaming World Cup games live and the final being staged as a double-header with the men’s final, women’s rugby league will enjoy its biggest-ever audience.

Women’s sport in Australia has enjoyed an increased media profile in the last couple of years. The Matildas, Diamonds, Southern Stars and the Olympic gold medal winning women’s sevens rugby team are receiving unprecedented coverage and public recognition.

Apps and the Jillaroos believe it is now their time in the bright lights.

“It’s exciting to see women’s teams in other codes succeeding and exceeding and we are next,” the 26-year-old said.

“The more coverage we get of us playing rugby league, the more little girls can see us and say I want to be like her. In previous years we haven’t had that much television coverage so hopefully this time girls will watch us and want to join a club so that they can do what we do.”

The Jillaroos are defending World Cup champions after defeating New Zealand 22-12 in the 2013 final at Headingley in Leeds.

With two extra teams in the 2017 World Cup after the number of nations increased from four to six, Apps is not getting ahead of herself in terms of expectations.

The Aussie women play regular internationals against New Zealand and defeated Papua New Guinea 42-4 in Port Moresby earlier this year. However, they are less familiar with the other three sides, Canada, the Cook Islands and England.

“Going into the unknown with some of the countries is exciting. Playing four other countries apart from New Zealand is also very exciting.

“I want to take each step as it comes. Our first game is against the Cook Islands and hopefully we can get the result and prepare for the next game.

“The culture of the team is really good. Ever since the new coaching staff was appointed back in November the focus has been on team culture and they have done a really good job. We all get along really well.

“Come game day we know we will do everything in our power to help each other and I just can’t wait for that.”

Rugby League Women’s World Cup Draw

Thursday, November 16
New Zealand v Canada at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney, 1.45pm (AEDT)
Australia v Cook Islands at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney, 4pm (AEDT)
England v Papua New Guinea at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney, 6.30pm (AEDT)
Sunday, November 19
Australia v England at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney, 1.45pm (AEDT)
New Zealand v Cook Islands at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney, 4pm (AEDT)
Papua New Guinea v Canada at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney, 6.30pm (AEDT)
Wednesday, November 22
England v Cook Islands at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney, 1.45pm (AEDT)
Australia v Canada at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney, 4pm (AEDT)
New Zealand v Papua New Guinea at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney, 6.30pm (AEDT)
Sunday, November 26
Semi-final 1 at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney, 1.45pm (AEDT)
Semi-final 2 at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney, 4pm (AEDT)
Saturday, December 2
Final at Brisbane Stadium, Brisbane, 4.45pm (AEDT)

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About the author

Stuart McLennan

Stuart McLennan is a freelance writer and media manager with a passion for all sports and an obsession with the rugby codes. Currently based in Athens, Greece Stuart is enjoying watching rugby league develop internationally while keeping a close eye on the NRL. Stuart likes to scratch below the surface of the game and its personalities with interviews and opinion.

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