World Cup glory: women's game in focus


It's not always the wisest policy but when it comes to rugby league, Australian Jillaroos star Sam Hammond is glad she ignored mum's advice.

The 22-year-old from Helensburgh spent most of her teenage years on the dance floor, but the years of chasing her dad Gary around the rugby league training paddock eventually won out.

"Mum said 'stick to dancing' but I grew up in a real rugby league family and always wanted to play," Hammond said.

"My dad coached and I always used to go to training with him as a little girl.

"I was always a bit of a rough nut, a bit of a tomboy and wanted to get in the backyard and get dirty, so obviously when I got the chance to go away from dancing and physie and into footy I made it happen."

The decision culminated in the coveted player of the tournament gong at fullback for the Jillaroos in last year's women's World Cup in England.

Hammond played an integral role in the Jillaroos breaking New Zealand's previously unbeaten stranglehold on the Cup leading some observers to dub her the female Billy Slater.

The experience has prompted Hammond to encourage other women to take up the sport as the Illawarra Coal League women's competition kicks off in April.

Defending premiers Helensburgh, Corrimal, Berkeley and Port Kembla will all field sides with Thirroul also hopeful of putting a side on the paddock.

"I love it [rugby league], it's by far the best thing I've ever done," Hammond said.

"If someone said to me two seasons ago, 'if you go to the Illawarra knockout you'll play for NSW, you'll travel England and you'll win a World Cup', I'd have said 'no way'.

"When you first start you think it's a just a little shell of girls who play it but going to the World Cup opened our eyes to how many girls love it, how many girls play and how skilful everyone is."

Former Coal League player-turned-NRL female participation officer Sam Scott said the Jillaroos success had shifted the notion that women's biggest role in rugby league was in the canteen.

"The Jillaroos' success has really helped at the NRL level," Scott said. "They realise they've got these really talented girls and they want to hold on to that World Cup now, so there's a big focus on growing the feeder competitions.

"We're lucky we've got four [Jillaroos] in the Illawarra so people can look at girls like Sam, and think 'if they're playing for Australia then maybe I can too'."

Any interested teams or players are urged to contact Coal League manager Chris Bannerman on 0414 283 239.

NRL female participation officer Sam Scott and Jillaroo Sam Hammond are encouraging women to playing league. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

NRL female participation officer Sam Scott and Jillaroo Sam Hammond are encouraging women to playing league. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI


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