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'We don't want to be left behind': Wallaroos looking to ensure competitive future

By AAP
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Olympic gold medallist Sharni Williams fears the Wallaroos will be left trailing on the international stage if women athletes continue to be overlooked.

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Olympic gold medallist Sharni Williams is urging Australians to get behind the Wallaroos or risk them falling off the pace in world rugby.

Williams will line up for her fourth Rugby World Cup next month in New Zealand, switching back to the 15-a-side program after a stellar year with the national Sevens team who secured the triple crown.

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While the Sevens players, who won their own World Cup earlier this month, are well resourced, the Wallaroos are scrapping against international performers who train and compete full-time, earning as much as $50,000 a year.

Williams says the Sevens’ international success could in large part be put down to the funding and resources dedicated to turning the program professional.

But the 34-year-old believes it is impossible to expect more financial backing for the 15s without a wider cultural shift.

“We don’t want to be left behind,” Williams told AAP.

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“Women need to be valued for what they do because we work just as hard as the men.

“Until that happens in society, you’re not going to start to see huge changes within the sport.

“We always look at the men’s (game) and we’re trying to work towards that – but we’re missing the mark in society.”

Williams said the sport needs more recognition outside of Rugby Australia and sporting bodies who are already supporting the development of the program.

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People who are unaware of working and playing conditions for women – from earning part-time wages to wearing men’s jerseys – need to educate themselves, she said.

“People say, ‘Oh it’s little stuff’ but when you get your first jersey or your first boots, it makes you feel complete,” Williams said.

“For women, that’s what we want.”

Wallaroos coach Jay Tregonning agreed, saying athletes shine when they receive the recognition they deserve.

The establishment of the Super W league to provide training and playing opportunities outside international competitions for women has been a great leap forward, he said.

Tregonning said programs investing in women will bring the Wallaroos closer to success, with success and recognition important not just for the players but for the overall health of the sport.

“When young girls see success within the Wallaroos, they can see it’s a genuine pathway,” Tregonning said.

“Get behind us. Send the girls your support.

“Let them know you’re a fan and that you’re watching.

“That will mean the world to them.”

The Wallaroos will headline the World Cup opening triple-header when they take on New Zealand at Eden Park on Saturday October 8.

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