Newcastle Rugby: Hunter rookies face ultimate test against Fiji

BIG ASSIGNMEMT: The Hunter women's team will take on Fiji at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.
BIG ASSIGNMEMT: The Hunter women's team will take on Fiji at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.

DANELLE Campbell arrived in Australia from Canada without a club and lived in a car when she first joined Merewether.

This time last year, Maya Stewart was playing touch footy.

Nathan twins, Leilani and Nicole, are studying for the HSC and making the transition from sevens to the 15-a-side game.

Emma Bradford and Lupe Ngatuvai are still elligibe for the under-17s.

At the other end of the spectrum, Carla Anderson has spent years toiling away for her club, waiting for a chance at the next level.

On Saturday night, they will all get to experience international rugby for the first time when Hunter take on Fiji at No.2 Sportsground.

The match is the first women’s international in Newcastle since the Wallaroos took on England in 2001.

The tourists, known as the Fijiana, accounted for the Brumbies 33-7 in Canberra on Monday.

DOUBLE UP: Twins, Leilani and Nicole Nathan.

DOUBLE UP: Twins, Leilani and Nicole Nathan.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for our girls to not only be playing a quality international side, but also in our home town,” Hunter coach Gerry Mason said. 

“Fijiana will be big and physical. They have some hard-running ball-carriers and, as you would expect from Fiji, they have speedy outside backs.”

A new-look Hunter side finished second at the Country Championships in May, bringing an end to their 18-year reign.

Veteran NSW Country prop Tammy Clay comes into the squad and Mason is confident the women will rise to the occasion.

“We are a classic mix of youth and experience,” Mason said.

“Eight of our players are under 21. Lupe Ngatuvai and Emma Bradford are still competing in the under-17s and Leilani and Nicole Nathan are in their first year out of juniors. We are looking to compete hard, keep our structure and be strong at the set pieces.”

The match kicks off at 4.45pm after the men’s first-grade grand final rematch between Wanderers and Hamilton.

Hunter: 18 Tammy Clay, 2 Carla Andersen, 3 Theresa Wilhelmus, 20 Danelle Campbell, 5 Theresa Ngungutau, 6 Jessica Church, 7 Hayley Amm, 8 Annika Jamieson, 9 Tahlia Goldsmith, 10 Danielle Fruend, 11 Maya Stewart, 12 Synetta Manns, 13 Naomi Medlin, 14 Liz Kennedy, 15 Maddison Ingram, 16 Jade Wilson, 17 Stephanie Klimovitch, 19 Mel Whittingham, 4 Leilani Nathan, 1 Nicole Nathan, 21 Emma Bradford, 22 Anika Butler, 23 Lupe Ngatuvai