Apps to be managed through World Cup
The abbreviated schedule and ongoing management of the leg she broke at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines earlier this year will see Jillaroos star and St George Illawarra Ambassador Kezie Apps used sparingly until the Women's Rugby League World Cup finals.
The Jillaroos open their World Cup defence against the Cook Islands as part of the triple-header at Southern Cross Group Stadium on Thursday afternoon and play all three pool games in the space of just seven days.
The 2016 Dally M Female Player of the Year broke her leg during the three-game series against the Kiwi Ferns at the Auckland Nines, but after missing the All Stars game and the May Test in Canberra returned in time to lead New South Wales to a second-straight win over Queensland in the Interstate Challenge.
Still troubled by the plate and screws that were inserted into her left leg, Apps was adamant that she could get through the heavy workload, but Jillaroos coaching and medical staff have put in place a plan to ensure she is at her blockbusting best when it matters most.
Apps will come off the bench in the tournament opener against the Cook Islands on Thursday, start against the strong England team on Sunday and then all going well will rest up for the final pool game against Canada next Wednesday.
"Given the amount of games we have to play in such a short timeframe we're going to have to manage basically every player," Jillaroos coach Brad Donald told NRL.com.
"By game two every player will have played because even if everything falls the way we want it to fall and there are no injuries, there are three players who will have had to participate in all three matches."
As she prepared to begin her first World Cup campaign Apps admitted that the thought of missing the World Cup was a driving force in her injury rehabilitation and that she was surprised how well her leg had withstood the recent four-week training block all the Jillaroos players were required to complete.
"I've been trying to do all the right things for it so I can be at my best," Apps said.
"My leg's feeling really good. Especially with four weeks of training and the running load, I thought it would pull up really sore but it's been really good.
"I've never had a major injury before so when I did break my leg obviously the Anzac Test, Origin, All Stars, all that was in my mind, especially World Cup at the end of the year.
"I worked really hard to be fit for Origin and that's something that I did so I knew at that stage that I could definitely be a lot fitter and a lot stronger by World Cup.
"Rugby league was such a big part of my life for that three years prior to that and for that to be taken away from me was really hard.
"Being on the sidelines, especially for the Anzac Test and not being out there helping my best mates try and win that game – even though I had no doubt they would be able to do it – but not being out there and helping them was really tough."
With the increased depth now at Donald's disposal, he praised the dedication shown by Apps to get back on the field as quickly as possible and said her determination and commitment has now fed through the entire squad.
"She is one of the greatest players running around at the moment and she moved herself from Bega to Wollongong so she could train and have access to everything she needed so she could make the World Cup squad," said Donald.
"We brought all the girls in for a camp prior to the May Test because it was another touch point for the World Cup and even though she was injured we just wanted Kezie to stay motivated and stay a part of it.
"Our initial thought was to bring her in for the first part of that camp and then she basically asked if she could drive herself up for the Canberra game and because she'd done so much for the team around the camp we basically had her on as part of the staff.
"The girls really enjoy having her around and that selflessness she brings into the team is something that a lot of the girls possess which is a great quality to have in the squad."
Jillaroos' 19-woman squad to face Cook Islands:
- Nakia Davis-Welsh
- Karina Brown
- Annette Brander
- Isabelle Kelly
- Meg Ward
- Ali Brigginshaw
- Caitlin Moran
- Steph Hancock (c)
- Brittany Breayley
- Rebecca Young
- Vanessa Foliaki
- Talesha Quinn
- Zahara Temara
- Maddie Studdon
- Lavina O’Mealey
- Simaima Taufa
- Kezie Apps
- Corban McGregor
- Heather Ballinger