World Cup stars Kezie Apps and Sam Bremner have been ruled out of the Jillaroos squad for the upcoming Commonwealth Nines Championships in Brisbane.
Jillaroos coach Brad Donald is expected to announce a squad later this month for the tournament on February 23-24 at Redcliffe’s Dolphin Oval, which is being staged in the lead-up to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
However, Apps is unavailable after undergoing surgery last week to remove screws and a plate in the leg she broke during last year’s NRL Nines in Auckland, while Bremner remains sidelined by the stress fracture suffered in a World Cup training mishap.
“It is recovering a bit slower than we expected and we don’t know why that is,” Bremner told NRL.com. “I kept running on it for two weeks, which wouldn’t have helped.
“It is definitely healing, there is a big callus around it but you can still see the crack, which means it is healing but it is not strong yet. I need to be back and healthy for our Origin match in June, so there is no rush.”
Apps, who is a St George Illawarra Dragons ambassador, is also focused on the representative games later in the season and the new NRL Women’s Premiership, which will be played as double-headers before and during the NRL finals.
The 26-year-old second-rower’s surgeon had suggested she have the screws and plate removed last year but Apps didn’t want to jeopardise her World Cup ambitions.
“I had the choice of waiting until after the Nines series to get it out but then we have a National Championship in May, which is fairly important because that is going to have something to do with the selection of the NRL sides,” Apps said.
“I will have to just miss the Nines unfortunately, but I would have to miss something so I just wanted to get it out.
“It was a bit sore and was paining sometimes. He [the surgeon] said one of the screws was coming out, so that’s why I was in a bit of pain.”
The NRL is finalising a selection criteria to determine the six clubs who will receive licences for the inaugural women’s premiership but Apps said she hoped the Dragons would be included.
“This area was one of the first to get a women’s competition up and running, and with the first Nines game against the Sharks, they have been supporting the women’s game for a long time now so they should be a good chance of getting a side,” she said.
After the success of the World Cup, which the Jillaroos won after beating the Kiwi Ferns 23-16 in a thrilling final at Suncorp Stadium, Bremner said 2018 was poised to be an even bigger year for women’s rugby league.
“We are just waiting on what clubs are going to win the bid,” she said. “But I am trying not to look too far ahead.
“All I want to do is pull on a jersey and throw a football around. Whether that be a club jersey or an Australian jersey, all I want to do is play footy.”
The fractured leg, which was sustained after a Jillaroos team-mate fell on her at training, was the fifth injury to sideline Bremner in the past 12 months and on each occassion she was out for eight weeks or more.
After tripping over and knocking herself out at the final training session before May’s ANZAC Test in Canberra, the star fullback suffered ankle syndesmosis in her first game back against Queensland in the Interstate Challenge at WIN Stadium.
“My journey last year couldn’t have been tougher, I got knocked down every time I got up five times and that has made me want to play rugby league even more,” Bremner said.
“I am so happy that I have been able to inspire young girls in a different way. I have been able to inspire them by playing and now I am able to show that it is not all smooth sailing.
“I have been surprised by the amount of people who have asked if I want to retire, and I want to inspire young girls to think that is not the way they should quit when things get hard.”
Meanwhile, Canada Ravens coach Mike Castle will bring 13 members of his World Cup squad back to Australia for the Commonwealth Nines Championship.
Among them are star backrower Andrea Burk, five-eighth Stevie Schnoor, prop Gillian Boag, halfback Sabrina McDaid and centre Janai Haupapa.
Alannna Fittes from Alberta and Quebec-based Justine Pelletier are the new faces in the Ravens squad.