Upton to finally make international debut as Jillaroos squad announced

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Dally M player of the year and NRLW grand final star Tamika Upton will finally make her international debut after being selected as the Jillaroos fullback for the upcoming Pacific Championships this month.

The 26-year-old two-time Karyn Murphy medallist was meant to play for Australia at the 2022 World Cup last year in England, but was ruled out with a calf injury.

Jillaroos head coach Brad Donald named his 21-woman squad on Tuesday, and said the decision to hand Upton a jersey was a no-brainer.

“It was really hard not to pick the person who was back-to-back Karyn Murphy medallist and Dally M medallist, and had a huge influence on the weekend’s result,” Donald said.

“She’s been picked a number of times before and been unavailable, but hopefully this is the opportunity she’s been looking for.”

Roosters and NSW centre Jessica Sergis, who scored a double in the Jillaroos World Cup win last year, said she’s relieved to finally be playing alongside rather than opposite Upton.

Dally M medallist Tamika Upton will finally get to make her debut for Australia this month.Credit: Chris Elfes

“I’m so excited. I’ve never played alongside Tamika before. We’ve always had a bit of biff on the field, I think that’s the beauty of it, but I think she’s a phenomenal girl and an even better athlete,” Sergis said.

“I know how much she brings to a team, so I think to play on the same side now I don’t have to worry about her. It’s a big relief. I’m excited to go into camp in a few days and build a bit more of a connection and a friendship, and take our footy to the next level.”

Sergis, who missed the Roosters’ semi-final loss to the Titans two weeks ago due to a finger injury, said there were no concerns about whether her hand would be sound enough to play.

“It’s progressing quite nicely. Brad’s been great with me over the last few weeks checking in with it,” she said.

Kezie Apps and Ali Brigginshaw have been named Jillaroos co-captains.Credit: NRL Photos

“It was bittersweet not making the grand final the other day, but it’s probably the best thing for my finger, I probably would have made it worse playing that, and I think everything [happens] for a reason.”

Another Jillaroo carrying an injury is Kezie Apps, who has spent the past couple of weeks in a moon boot and has been named co-captain alongside Ali Brigginshaw.

“I think she put herself in a boot, so she would stay off the foot and not play-up too much after the season and give herself every chance,” Donald said.

Dragons fullback Teagan Berry and Tigers winger Jakiya Whitfeld were just pipped for a spot, while Cowboys hooker Emma Manzelmann is set to make her international debut.

“[Manzelmann is] an exciting young prospect that plays nine, we took her to Papua New Guinea with the Prime Minister’s team last week, and she was fantastic,” Donald said.

“She’s got all of the off-field attributes that we look for in a Jillaroo, and I think someone with her speed would really hurt some of the bigger teams. Hopefully, if she gets an opportunity depending on the makeup of the team, she could do some damage around the ruck and the later stages of a half.”

The Jillaroos will head up to Cairns on Saturday ahead of their first game against the Kiwi Ferns on Saturday, October 14.

2023 Pacific Championship Jillaroos squad: Tarryn Aiken (Roosters), Kezie Apps (Tigers), Shaylee Bent (Titans), Ali Brigginshaw (Broncos), Lauren Brown (Titans), Jaime Chapman (Titans), Kennedy Cherrington (Eels), Yasmin Clydsdale (Knights), Keeley Davis (Roosters), Jess Elliston (Titans), Caitlan Johnston (Knights), Isabelle Kelly (Roosters), Olivia Kernick (Roosters), Emma Manzelmann (Cowboys), Shannon Mato (Titans), Evania Pelite (Titans), Julia Robinson (Broncos), Jessica Sergis (Roosters), Simaima Taufa (Raiders), Emma Tonegato (Sharks), Tamika Upton (Knights).

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