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The Broader Game: Sam slams retirement talk

In the first of a weekly column - The Broader Game - on women's rugby league, Alicia Newton chats to Sam Bremner, provides an update on the rep scene as well as the state competitions.

 

Sam Bremner has quashed any talk of retirement plans and is desperate to remind Jillaroos coach Brad Donald of her credentials amid a flurry of fullback talent coming through the women's game. 

The 29-year-old veteran hasn't played for the Jillaroos since 2016 with multiple injuries and the birth of her first child among the factors for her lack of international appearances over the past five seasons. 

Bremner's attacking prowess in the No.1 jersey was on display in the inaugural State of Origin clash in 2018, where she was instrumental in the side's three tries.

However, the emergence of young guns Tamika Upton and Botille Vette-Welsh in recent years is expected to put heat on Bremner to reclaim the fullback spot for the 2021 World Cup.

Sam Bremner leads out the Dragons in the opening round of the 2020 NRLW.
Sam Bremner leads out the Dragons in the opening round of the 2020 NRLW. ©NRL Photos

"I love that there's pressure because it motivates me more, I've never been more motivated and think I've got a few years left in me yet," Bremner told NRL.com.

"My body feels good and I was ready to go at pre-season in November.

"My mindset is on wanting to be the best fullback there is and I'm determined to do that.

"If Brad told me I was going to be fullback for the next five years I'd just put my feet up. If my position is under threat I want to go harder and I won't budge on it."

I love that there's pressure because it motivates me more.

Sam Bremner

Bremner has been named at five-eighth for Helensburgh in her return to the field on Saturday but will spend some time at fullback.

"The way I play fullback could definitely change," she said. 

"It obviously comes more naturally to me whereas in the six I have to think more, but I also enjoy being in the front line and having my hands on the ball."

Helensburgh's inclusion in the Harvey Norman NSW Premiership is considered vital in Bremner's need to play competitive week-in, week-out club football.

Bremner has close ties to the Helensburgh club, while back-rower Kezie Apps, who moved back to Bega last year, will make trips to Sydney for the competition.

"It's been something we haven't been able to do because we have to juggle footy and life," Bremner said.

"These are the sacrifices we have to make for this year if we want to keep moving forward, not just as individuals but as a game.

Behind the scenes with Tedesco, Sergis and little league stars

"The way I look at the game now is completely different, which I'm so glad about because it's given me a new motivation.

"I've been more surprised physically with how better I feel being older. After having Reef you don't get a lot of time to yourself so you want to get more done on the training paddock."

Katrina Fanning unveils the Jillaroos plaque.
Katrina Fanning unveils the Jillaroos plaque. ©NRL Photos

Recognition for Illawarra's Jillaroos

Twenty-five past and present Jillaroos players from the Illawarra were acknowledged last week with the unveiling of a permanent honours board at Steelers Club in Wollongong.

Hosted by Fox League's Matt Russell, the guests included Australian legend Tarsha Gale, NSW coach Kylie Hilder and current Jillaroos squad members Kezie Apps and Sam Bremner.

"It was a really special function," Gale said.

"[NSWRL president] Bob Millward is a mover and shaker who really respects the women's game to get things done."

Host Matt Russell with Shakiah Tungai, Sam Bremner and Kezie Apps.
Host Matt Russell with Shakiah Tungai, Sam Bremner and Kezie Apps. ©NRL Photos

Bremner added she didn't realise the quality of talent that has come from the region until seeing all the names listed with Nat Dwyer and Ruan Sims among those also listed.

"Some of the women that played around 1996 said they won four years in a row and no one could beat them at nationals," Bremner said.

"Everyone assumes women's rugby league is fairly new but this was just another reminder it's been going on for a while now.

"It was nice that they were as proud of us as we are to represent them."

Nat Dwyer in Queensland camp in 2018.
Nat Dwyer in Queensland camp in 2018. ©NRL Photos

Revamp for National Championships 

The NRL is expected to announce a revamped format of the women's National Championships to take place in May after the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the carnival last season.

Originally a six-team opens competition that ran across four days, the changes will include a heavy focus around developing the next crop of talent with under-19 sides from across the country included.

Recruitment scouts from NRLW clubs are likely to be watching on closely in a bid to fill their squads for later in the season.

Watch this space

The postponement of the women's rugby World Cup to 2022 is likely to mean a few Wallaroos put their hands up to play in the NRL Telstra Women's Premiership again this season.

Wallaroos captain Grace Hamilton played for the Roosters last year and, if given permission, could become available again for the NRLW.

The same could apply for several rugby sevens stars, who lit up the NRLW last season, if the Tokyo Olympics do not go ahead this year. 

Grace Hamilton on the charge for the Roosters.
Grace Hamilton on the charge for the Roosters. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Welcome back

There were a couple of welcome sights in the Harvey Norman NSW women's premiership last weekend with forwards Holli Wheeler and Navjada George making their returns from ACL injuries.

St George Illawarra fans may recall Wheeler leaving Perth's HBF Park last February in a knee brace after being twisted awkwardly in a tackle during the NRL Nines.

Wheeler celebrated her return for club side North Sydney with a try early in the second half against the Central Coast Roosters but it wasn't enough as the premiers proved too good 38-10.

 
 
 
 
 
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Former Maroons centre Amber Pilley was another who got back on the field earlier this month with Burleigh after 12 months on the sidelines with the same injury.

Shak takes a break

Jillaroos winger Shakiah Tungai has confirmed her intentions to take a break from the game this year.

The Dragons flyer knocked back an offer to be part of the Jillaroos' 40-player train-on squad ahead of the 2021 World Cup and is telling teammates she's eager to travel around and explore Australia this year.

Pray for Katie

A special shout-out to former NRL.com colleague and SEN radio host Katie Brown who somehow managed to pick herself up off the ground after this bone-rattling hit from Cronulla's Analei Netzler in the opening round of the Harvey Norman NSW women's premiership.

A self-confessed rookie, Brown has impressed many in her short time playing the game but may need to develop a sidestep or two during the club's bye round this weekend.