Olympic gold medalist Amy Turner knows things could get a little awkward following her decision to turn her back on New South Wales to play for Queensland at the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens.
Turner, who claimed Olympic gold in Rio as part of the Australian Sevens team, insisted on playing for her former home state Queensland rather than her current state New South Wales in the two-match series between the fierce traditional rivals that rounds out the spectacular tournament schedule.
Turner, 32, has lived on Sydney’s northern beaches since 2014 and will play her rugby for the Warringah Rats and New South Wales XVs this season. But it seems her heart remains in Queensland .
“Just to play with all my old friends again will be an awesome feeling,” Turner said after throwing in her lot with Queensland for the series, which has been confirmed by tournament organisers today.
“It will be awesome. I can’t wait, to be honest. It’s been a while since I have played for Queensland,” the former Queensland Sevens star said. “But we’ve got nationals coming up for 15s soon so I don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t know what I have done! We’ll just roll with it.”
Turner’s defection gives the series a decidedly State of Origin feel.
Both states have named sides stacked with Sevens and 15s stars for what will be a thrilling clash in the exciting new ten-a-side format.
New South Wales coach Nathan McMahon said the state had “strictly” selected only players from the state.
“The team is a mix of the current NSW Wallaroos players and the current NSW women’s Sevens players. They’re all strictly NSW players,” McMahon said. “There’s a good representation of country players and Sydney-based players so a good cross-section of the state.
“There’s certainly a rivalry between NSW and Queensland in rugby. With tens though it’s certainly something new for the girls so it’s all just making sure they know the process and understanding their roles in the team to be able to execute.”
The inclusion of the two-match series over February 11 and 12 reflected the increasing strength and popularity of the women’s game, Queensland coach Moana Virtue said.
“We are super excited and honoured to be included in such an elite international sporting event and the first of its kind is special as well,” she said.
“Women’s rugby in Queensland is pretty strong with our women’s 7s team crowned national champions, so we were lucky enough to draw on a few our 7s players as well as our Australian Wallaroos. This tournament is also a fantastic opportunity to prepare for our National XVs on the Gold Coast in May, so there is plenty for us to play for.
“NSW is a staunch rugby state and will have a gun side who won’t give an inch, so we’re gonna have to be on our game if we want to be competitive. We’re expecting a bruising one – but we wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Turner admitted her decision to play for Queensland was “a bit awkward” – however she had been swayed by Virtue.
“It’s a bit odd. I wasn’t too sure who to play for. But one of my good friends is actually coaching the Queensland team and she was like ‘you better be playing for us or else’. So I didn’t have a choice!”
Australia’s victory in Rio had propelled the women’s game to new heights and the inclusion of women’s matches at Suncorp over February 11 and 12 would help ensure women’s rugby remained centre stage, Turner said.
“The game has grown so much since we have been back [from Rio],” Turner said. “There are so many young girls who are now interested in playing rugby. We are starting to put pathways in place for little girls which is so exciting to see. We have definitely put the game on the map for all women in sport.
“When I was a young girl there were no pathways as such, so it has come along in leaps and bounds.”
Duco Events chief executive Rachael Carroll said the series was a great chance to showcase the women’s game in front of a huge crowd at Suncorp Stadium and a massive global television audience.
“We’ve seen just how popular the test series between the Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns has become at the NRL Nines – it’s an annual highlight the fans just love,” Ms Carroll said.
“I’m certain this series between fierce traditional rivals Queensland and New South Wales will prove every bit as entertaining and a huge hit with fans. These women are tremendous athletes and we are thrilled we can provide such a great stage for them to showcase their ability.”
Queensland women play NSW women at 17:30 on Saturday February 11 and at 16:40 on Sunday February 12.
Cheyenne Campbell (C), Ivy Kaleta, Vuanimasei Rasolea, Kiri Lingman, Kirby Sefo, Loretta Lealiifano, Amy Turner, Nareta Marsters, Charlotte Kennington, Samantha Treherne, Liz Patu, Toakase Filimochala, Vetekina Aho Fangaloka, Lori Cramer, Rachel Crothers
Emily Chancellor (C), Nita Maynard, Bo Vette, Victoria Latu, Katrina Baker, Mel Howard, Grace Hamilton, Mollie Gray, Kate Gilbert, Millie Boyle, Sarah Havenson, Emily Robinson, Simaima Taufa, Raecene McGregor, Layne Morgan