The Queensland Maroons are set to defend their championship title to retain the Women’s State of Origin shield on Friday as they take on the NSW Sky Blues.
Headlining the squad is NRLW iron woman, “seriously the most passionate Queenslander” and the oldest player in the competition, Steph Hancock.
“I’m a bit overwhelmed, I don’t want to disappoint, I am feeling nervous” said the Gold Coast Titans prop, who in 2022 came out of retirement to play in her 19th professional season.
Hancock, 40, said the squad have prepared well and are itching to step onto the field on Friday.
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“I just really want to enjoy myself.
“I sat out for a year, I was suffering from depression and I had some stuff going on in my life that flipped on its head.
“Footy is all I’ve known, that’s my comfort thing.
The Australian NRLW legend said when she received the call to make her return to the Maroons, after having come out of retirement, she simply couldn’t refuse the chance to be back with her “family”.
“You can’t say no to a Queensland jersey.”
Hancock, will take the field at Canberra’s GIO Stadium alongside Maroons latest recruit making her debut and good mate, Evania Pelite, in an elite partnership of the old and new.
“I love this team more than any team in the world, it’s an honour, and my little mate’s debuting,” said Hancock referring to Pelite.
When asked how she prepared for the occasion, Pelite was quickly interrupted by Hancock who said “eating too many M & Ms”.
“For me just working on my combinations with my left edge players just nailing all of that and making sure we’re on the same page and preparing really well as a team,” said Pelite.
“I just like to go in there confident knowing that everything I’ve done is going to set me up for success in the game.”
The Olympic medallist and Gold Coast Titans fullback said she couldn’t wait to see the Queensland girls “rip in” on Friday night.
When asked what advice she would give to the Queensland debutants ahead of the interstate clash, Hancock said: “I don’t think I have to give Vani too much advice because she’s a gold medal Olympian, she’s far more professional than I am, but this game compares to no other game, it’s intense, just hang onto the footy please.”
The former Dragons and Broncos player has not only assumed the role of mentor for Pelite, but also wingwoman.
“Vani is single, 26, she likes tall dark and handsome,” joked Hancock.
“We are absolutely jumping out of skin to play together.”
“Please let it be more than 20 degrees.”
Hancock weighed in on the Women’s State of Origin series expansion and said it was “ridiculous” that the games be held on two separate dates rather than three.
“It needs to go the three.
“You can’t have a two-game series, that’s ridiculous.
“It’s unfair on us players as well.
“It’s all about winning for your state, and that (drawn series result) is just boring. ”