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Women's World Cup Final - Australia v New Zealand Preview
Justin Davies previews Saturday's Women's Rugby League World Cup Final between Australia's Jillaroos and the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns.
It is the battle between two of rugby league's heavyweights, Australia and New Zealand, take to the field under the bright Queensland sunshine for Women's Rugby League World Cup glory.
Both the Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns swept the competition before them, going undefeated in the group stage before dispatching of Canada and England respectively to get to Saturday afternoon's decider.
The Kiwi Ferns are the most decorated side in the competition, with three consecutive titles between 2000-2008 while their only loss came to this weekend's opponent as Australia triumphed in 2013, 22-12 in England.
Australia does hold the edge across 2017; as the Jillaroos have won in all four contests that have been played this season - including the most recent, a twelve point win in Canberra back in May.
For the Jillaroos, they have some impressive strike power in their backline - headlined by winger Karina Brown with six tries, Chelsea Baker in a strong backline that is in concert with a dynamic halves duo in Maddie Studdon and Ali Brigginshaw - 14 try-assists between them; Add a dominating forward pack led heroically by Ruan Sims up front with 370 run-metres.
Over the other side of the field, New Zealand want to send out veteran duo, Laura Mariu and Sharlene Atai, out on a victorious note. The duo lead the charge for the Kiwi Ferns, who boast the leading try-scorer in Honey Hireme, 11 tries in four games, and recently crowned player of the tournament, Teuila Fotu-Moala, affectionately known at the jukebox, with three tries of her own added to 477 run metres make for an imposing challenge for the Jillaroos.
Looking over all these stars across the thirty-four athletes that take to Suncorp Stadium on Saturday afternoon, highlight another jewel in the glittering crown of female sport, that has flourished in 2017. Hopefully Saturday's final is the final jewel in 2017's crown and we have an exciting and tense Women's Rugby League World Cup final.
Last time they met: Jillaroos 16 Kiwi Ferns 4, Canberra, Friday 5 May 2017
Who to Watch: Australia has lost star fullback Sam Bremner on the eve of the final, luckily coach Brad Donald has rotated his squad well through the tournament, so likely replacement Corban McGregor won't be coming into the contest cold. She will be tested by the Kiwi halves under the high ball also having destructive back Honey Hireme running at her.
For the women in black, the aforementioned Hireme is their undoubted star for the Kiwi Ferns. The back copped a rocket from her coach Tony Benson, despite her six try performance against Cook Islands. As mentioned above, she has 11 total for the tournament and if she is at her destructive best, the Jillaroos are going to have a long afternoon.
Tip: Australia 16-12
Nakia Davis-Welsh, Karina Brown, Corban McGregor, Isabelle Kelly, Chelsea Baker, Ali Brigginshaw, Caitlin Moran, Steph Hancock, Brittany Breayley, Heather Ballinger, Renae Kunst (c), Kezie Apps. Simaima Taufa
Interchange: Elianna Walton, Ruan Sims, Lavina O'Mealey, Zahara Temara
Reserves: Annette Brander, Meg Ward
1. Apii Nicholls-Pualau 2. Atawhai Tupaea 3. Maitua Feterika 4. Shontelle Woodman 5. Honey Hireme 6. Raecene McGregor 7. Kimiora Nati 8. Lilieta Maumau 9. Krystal Rota 10. Aieshaleigh Smalley 11. Teuila Fotu-Moala 12. Hilda Peters 13. Laura Mariu (c)
Interchange: 14. Nita Maynard 15. Krystal Murray 16. Ngatokotoru Arakua 17. Amber Kani
Reserves: 18. Georgia Hale 19. Louisa Gago
Referees: Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: Robert Hicks & Michael Wise; Video Referee: Shayne Hayne