No simple solutions for Wallaroos after disappointing Pacific Four showing


The Wallaroos did not have a memorable Pacific Four Series, losing three times.

At times they played some good rugby that included a great half against the USA. But when push came to shove against all three teams, they just could not match them. Were expectations a bit high? Probably.

The Black Ferns game was worse from a scoreline perspective, 67-19, than expected. It was inevitable after their Canada loss, they were not going to take any prisoners against the Wallaroos. A half-time score of 45-7 was pretty ugly. At that stage it was already game, set, match.

The second half was better for the Wallaroos but before getting too excited it is worth noting it occurred when the Kiwis rolled out their reserves (it also happened in the New Zealand-USA game).

But checking that the glass is always half-full, again the Wallaroos backline showed in all three games some real skill and some nice tries.

In the end the Kiwis were just fitter, stronger and did things at a faster pace.

What did we find out from the Pacific Four Series or, more accurately, what did we have confirmed?

It appears the Wallaroos, after making strides last season, have not developed as much as the Canada, USA and to a degree New Zealand this year. Part of that can be attributed to the new coaching team. No doubt the impact of new structures, new players and a short preparation time.

Maybe the adage short-term pain, long-term gain in the lead-up to the 2025 World Cup. Also we need to be mindful 2023’s performances followed on from a World Cup year. There was consistency throughout, mostly the same players and the same coaching crew.

The Black Ferns handed Australia a heavy defeat. (Photo by Fiona Goodall – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

The Wallaroos, like all Australian rugby teams, men and women, 15s and sevens, are often challenged in the forwards. An inability to consistently deliver physicality or have a dominant set piece. Finding and developing forwards is the most challenging aspect of rugby – there are no quick fixes, especially in the front row.

All three games highlighted the ongoing issues Australian women’s rugby has.

The short, five-game Super Rugby Women’s competition does not provide or develop battle-hardened players. Sounding like a broken record but no sooner do players and teams develop, the competition is over. It does not provide an opportunity to develop real depth and competition for Wallaroo positions.

Unfortunately lengthening the competition does not seem to be an option in the short term and some form of crossover with New Zealand’s Aupiki competition is not on the cards until 2026 at the earliest. All this will ultimately hinder the Wallaroos chances at their home World Cup in 2029.

While the USA and Canada have fewer financial resources than the Wallaroos most of their players play in the UK and French competitions. They just play more rugby.

Rugby reality.

Women’s rugby in Australia is third in the oval ball codes in terms of investment, player numbers, number of games played, pay, profile, promotion and media coverage. All of which impedes the development of depth.

This lack of depth and experience results in injuries having more of an impact. This was seen over the last couple of weeks. In the front row, ACL injuries meant no Bree-Anna Cheatham at prop or Adiana Talakai at hooker. Both played in all eight Tests last season. In this Pacific Four Series, hooker Tania Naden played 71, 77 and 75 minutes compared to the last three games of last season of 49, 54 and 60 minutes.

Similarly, Brianna Hoy 71, 77 and 62 minute compared to last season’s last three games 49, 54 and 60 minutes.

As coach Jo Yapp said about the Kiwi game we had some real issues at the breakdown. Without realising it the Wallaroos really missed Emily Chancellor and in the Kiwi game missed Ash Marsters who was just getting back up to speed in the forwards.

Going back to that half-full glass, all the backs played well. To be frank, the Wallaroos’ issues are not in the backline.

The Kiwi game was one of the best by Arabella McKenzie in a Wallaroo jersey.

Arabella McKenzie of the Wallaroos is tackled during the 2024 Pacific Four Series match between Australian Wallaroos and Canada (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Maya Stewart is just very good. Desiree Miller is a pocket rocket and despite her size holds her own in defence. Georgina Friedrichs is an absolute work horse in attack and defence, though a possible concern is who is the next 13 behind her.

Both Cecilia Smith and Trilleen Pomare played well at 12. An issue that will need to be addressed is who are the future centres, Smith 30, Pomare 31 and Friedrichs 29 years old.

Despite some commentary that half-back Samantha Wood has a better pass, across the board Layne Morgan appears to provide a lot more. This includes being an absolute menace on opposition scrums. At fullback Caitlyn Halse played pretty well in her two starts. In terms of a rating, she generally met expectations. She also does bring a bit more size to the back three.

In the Kiwi game Faitala Moleka came on at fullback at the 46th-minute mark and showed a lot. As the 10 at the Brumbies she can slip in easily as a first receiver from fullback. At 22 years old, long term, she is a vital cog for the Wallaroos.

As for the forwards no one really stood out consistently or dominated over the three games. Maybe Marsters stood out in the USA game. Last season there were a couple of games where Eva Karpani was outstanding. It was just collectively they were not as good as their opposition and were unable to consistently bend the line in attack or defence.

There were many very solid performances and you cannot question their efforts. No one had a poor game, just some poor handling at times and the scrum struggled at times.

The biggest issue is the front row expertise and depth. Again the word solid comes to mind. Generally they held their own (except in the Canadian game which in fairness was the first game of the season.) Somehow Rugby Australia needs to get more tough game time for the front rowers and hookers. Not sure if there is a front rowers academy in Australia per se but one is needed.

There is depth in the locks with Michaela Leonard, Kaitlan Leaney and Atasi Lafai and there are also a couple behind them. The backrow contingent of Piper Duck, Pesi Palu, Leilani Nathan, Tabua Tuinakauvadra and Marsters is solid but all very similar. As mentioned earlier there is no out and out open side, let alone depth in that position.

In terms of ratings the Wallaroos did not meet expectations. But keeping that glass half-full, there is still a lot to like about the team.

Now a break, next up the Fijiana and New Zealand (again) in July.

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