The strength of the Illawarra women’s rugby league competition is the secret weapon that will help the St George Illawarra Dragons in the upcoming NRL Women’s premiership according to Jillaroo Kezie Apps.
Apps has played in the league since 2014, scaling NSW and Australian representative heights in the process.
With the Dragons making a clear intention to fill the squad with the Illawarra’s best rugby league talent, it’s that familiarity of weekly competition with and against St George Illawarra teammates that will hold the NRL Women’s team in good stead, Apps believes.
“Yes, 100 per cent it’s a talented group of girls,” Apps said. “I’m pretty lucky that I get to play against the local girls in our local competition, so I know how good they are and that’s what makes it really exciting.
“They have this opportunity now to showcase their talent on the big stage, a lot of the other girls from other teams don’t know how they’re going to play, so it’s a bit unknown for them. But for me and a few of the other girls we know how they play, so I’m really excited to see them get out there and rip in.”
Apps has been forced to miss Helensburgh’s past three clashes with an ankle injury, and while there were initial fears she could miss the start of the landmark competition, the 27-year-old is confident she’s on track to return for the team’s round one match in two week’s time.
“My ankle’s going alright, it’s going better than the physios expected, so that’s a real positive.
“I’m starting to run this week so that’s another positive, so hopefully I’ll be right by round one and really focusing on strengthening it up again.”
Coach Daniel Lacey has combined his local expertise with top-level experience to formulate a squad boasting Illawarra talent including Apps, Sam Bremner and Rikeya Horne, alongside Queensland and international stars including Annette Brander, Honey Hireme and Raecene McGregor.
With the injury limiting her involvement in training sessions, Apps has been forced to watch the team train from afar. She has been impressed by what she’s seen.
“The team’s looking really good. I’ve sort of been doing my own rehab stuff away from the team, but once I finish all that, I’m straight out on to the field and seeing what they’re up to and they’re all good.
“It’s really exciting to see it all coming together in our sport. We’ve got our full squad at the moment, so it’s exciting to have everyone together and getting to know how everyone plays, what positions they are and just to get to know them in general as people, so it’s exciting.”