TOUGH FORWARD: Heather Ballinger of the Jillaroos (right) is tackled in an international between the Australian Jillaroos and the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle.
TOUGH FORWARD: Heather Ballinger of the Jillaroos (right) is tackled in an international between the Australian Jillaroos and the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Prop set to retire

RUGBY LEAGUE: Former Warwick student Heather Ballinger will retire after today's international game between the Kiwi Ferns and Australian Jillaroos at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.

Ballinger, Jo Barrett and Stephanie Hancock were the three from the Warwick and Killarney area to be in the first Jillaroos World Cup winning team in 2013.

In December last year, Ballinger and Hancock won a second World Cup.

Today's game will be the 20th international for Hancock who debuted in 2003 and is in a sport where most years the Jillaroos only play one international.

Ballinger debuted for Australia in 2011.

Paul Dyer was coach of the Brisbane Broncos team, which won the inaugural NRL women's grand final a fortnight ago in Sydney and said Ballinger was one of the pioneers of the game.

"She is a tough and uncompromising prop and her decision to retire is more about the body than the head,” Dyer said.

"Heather has been a wonderful leader for our team in her own unique way.

"She had a professional mindset even before the women's game became professional.”

Dyer is not expecting Hancock to call it a day after the international even though she was talking retirement a year ago.

"I said to her that if she has the same zest to play as she did for the Broncos this season, she should keep going,” he said.

"She is at the highest fitness level of her career as she made such an effort to be part of the NRLW competition and play for the Broncos.

"Her selection for Australia for this weekend's game is a reward for her effort.

"She was more committed than ever.”

With the women playing 60-minute games and having 10 interchanges, Dyer believes there is no reason she can't play on.

"We want Stephanie back at the Broncos next season and even if she is only used for 20 minutes off the bench, she will be wonderful for the team.”

Ballinger will play in her regular No.8 jumper, Elianna Walton will be the other prop and Hancock will come off the bench in jersey No.15.

The Jillaroos will play the Kiwi Ferns at 2.05pm (AEST) today as a forerunner to the 4.45pm game between the men's teams from Australia and New Zealand.

On Tuesday, the Jillaroos flew to New Zealand.

See a report of the game at www.warwickdailynews

.com.au



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