The World Cup has long been on the horizon for most of the Australian squad, but it’s been a complete whirlwind for Jillaroos winger Meg Ward.
Ward is one of four debutants, alongside Nakia Davis-Welsh, Talesha Quinn and Lavina O’Mealey, named in coach Brad Donald’s 17 for Australia’s tournament-opener against Cook Islands on Thursday.
The match at Southern Cross Group Stadium will take place more than 3,600 kilometres away from Katherine where Ward is stationed with the RAAF.
It was from there she made one of the more unlikely rises to national duty after being spotted by Donald representing Northern Territory at the Combined Affiliated States competition. The rapid rise will culminate in her first Test outing on Thursday, something the 23-year-old describes as a dream come true.
“I grew up in Brisbane and then got posted up the Katherine with the Air Force,” Ward said.
“I just wanted to play some sport so I got into league and was fortunate enough to get picked to play for NT where I got spotted by Brad [Donald] at the [CAS] championships.
“It's all happened very quickly. Most of these girls have been prepping for years so it’s been in their sights for a bit longer than me but I’ve done everything I can to be just as prepared as they are.
“I’m so fortunate to surrounded by such an amazing group of girls. They’re so experienced and the coaching staff have been amazing and super committed to helping me improve.
“Representing your country is something you always dream about so I can’t wait.”