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Why Jillaroos are primed for international return

A national program "as good as any sport in the country" has Jillaroos strength and conditioning coach Simon Buxton confident players will be prepared to return to the international arena.

The Jillaroos high-performance staff are expecting to get clarity this month around whether the World Cup scheduled for the UK will go ahead in November.

The two-time defending champions have been planning for any scenario since last season when all Test matches were cancelled due to COVID-19.

Like their male counterparts, Jillaroos players haven't pulled on a green and gold jersey since October 2019, when they beat the Kiwi Ferns 28-8 in Wollongong.

Australian Jillaroos coach Brad Donald picked an elite group of 40 World Cup hopefuls in February and has trimmed the list down in recent weeks due to injury and mixed form.

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The players, mostly made up of those who featured in women's State of Origin last month and in the NRLW last year, have been in the program for the past eight months.

From a sports science perspective, leading players have never been in better shape ahead of their World Cup defence.

"Whether we stay in Australia and play a couple of Test matches or go to the World Cup, we're confident that our systems have prepared players really well," Buxton told NRL.com.

"We're well ahead of every country in the world when it comes to rugby league but also when it comes to any other female sport as well.

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"When you talk about elite sportswomen, the high-performance program we have at the Jillaroos is arguably the best in Australia.

"In terms of funding, resources and expertise, research, sports science, strength and conditioning and coaching … all those sorts of things, it's the best in the business.

"There are experts that have backed it. The likes of Professor Clare Minahan, she's a woman who has been in elite female sport for 20 years and has been quoted in the past about the AIS pillars and elite female performance.

"When you've got someone of that calibre talking about our program, how invested the NRL is and how well resourced and supported it is, that statement gives it a fair bit of clout.

"Because we've had those systems in place we'll be prepared for any scenario."

Buxton said elite female players have been "left alone" during the season, which began for all players at their local state competitions before transitioning into Origin last month and NRLW training next week.

"We monitor from afar and are here if they need us in terms of support with injuries or MRIs to provide that advice," he said.

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"The benefit of monitoring them from afar is it gives us an appreciation of where they're at physically and mentally for when they do come out of the NRLW and into the national program.

"Queensland and NSW have been monitoring their players but post-Origin that stops now. The Jillaroos monitor all year round. If there's anything flagged we chase it up."

Anyone who falls outside the bracket of the top 40, including under 19s players and those who competed at the National Championships, is left to local clubs and NRLW clubs to monitor and develop.

"The Broncos have had success because they've done it really well," Buxton said.

"They've resourced their women's program quite well with good facilities and good coaching.

"As the NRLW gets longer with more teams that coverage by the clubs will get longer.

"Our program will then spread to the combined affiliated states, indigenous pathways and under 19s because they're not getting enough resources."