The Jillaroos have put the rest of the Women’s Rugby League World Cup on notice with a clinical opening performance, thumping Cook Islands 58-4.
Redfern All Blacks women Nakia Davis-Welsh and Lavina O'Mealey both scored tries in the rout while Maddie Studdon kicked four goals.
The first half was near-perfect for the Jillaroos, as they ran in 36 points which began with the classy halves pairing of Caitlin Moran and Ali Brigginshaw, and more times than not was finished by the super talented backline that took their opportunities.
Interestingly, the Jillaroos first 10 tries came from 10 players, the points being heavily shared which highlights the depth and dominance the Australian team has across the park and within their squad.
Moran kicked off her World Cup campaign in a way that matches her persona – tough and uncompromising – when she slipped out of the grasp of various defenders to muscle her way through for the opening try.
Makeshift hooker Brittany Bailey scored next for Australia as she pierced her way through a gap, and the Jillaroos’ class was on show for everyone to see very early in the contest.
Isabelle Kelly debuted for the Jillaroos earlier in the year, and she showed why she’s one of the most dangerous centres in Rugby League when she received early ball and stepped off her left foot to find space, before she passed to Karina Brown, who strolled over untouched.
Another long-range effort was next for the Jillaroos, this time some solo brilliance from Brigginshaw who showed the ball to her right in her own half, then her left twice, before burning the fullback to increase the Jillaroos’ lead to 20-0.
Brigginshaw was involved in the next try when halves partner Moran linked up with her, before the crafty five-eighth threw a nice short ball to Vanessa Foliaki who ran a great line to storm over underneath the posts.
The Cook Islands were shell-shocked, but to their credit, they were able to get some possession and take the ball into opposition territory.
They couldn’t turn that into points however, and the Jillaroos responded with an absolute clinic of second phase play when Brown darted out of dummy half and made a great run, offloaded to Maddie Studdon, who then passed to debutant Talesha Quinn who fended off three players in her 40-metre effort to the try-line.
Kelly was the beneficiary of another long-range team effort immediately afterwards, which took the Jillaroos into half time with a 36-0 buffer.
Cook Islands began the second half on top off the back of a Nakia Davis-Welch error, but it would be the live wire fullback to post next points in the match when she had space and broke through a handful of tackles to score an incredible try, very similar to Moran’s.
Davis-Welsh’s fellow debutant, Lavina O’Mealey, stamped her authority next when he crashed into the defence, got an arm free and popped a brilliant offload to Meg Ward – another debutant – to score her first international try.
The most simple try of the afternoon came through O’Mealey, who picked the ball out from dummy half and planted it down in one motion as she realised the markers were out of position.
Cook Islands dominated the field position and possession in the closing stages of the match, and were finally rewarded for their gusty effort when Chantelle Inangaro Schofield spun through a tackle to score in the right corner.
Moran closed proceedings just as she opened them as she stepped off her left then her right foot in broken play to burst through and cap off a wonderful 58-4 victory for the Jillaroos.
Australia 52 (C Moran 2, B Breayley, K Brown, A Brigginshaw, V Foliaki, T Quinn, I Kelly, N Davis-Welsh, M Ward, L O’Mealey tries; Studdon 4, Moran 3 goals)
Cook Islands 4 (C Inangaro Schofield try)