Wallaroo Mel Wilks will be trialled at fullback by the Queensland Reds women’s team on Saturday at the Santos Festival of Rugby in Roma.
The 5pm AEST clash against the NSW Waratahs is the valuable opening trial for a new-look Reds squad as preparations ramp up for the start of Super W in March.
New coach Grant Anderson is excited to switch from training to game mode for the first time with the 2023 Super W runners-up.
“We’ve done some really good work in the pre-season to improve our skillbase and that will continue all the way to our first Super W game against Fijiana Drua on March 17 (at Ballymore),” Anderson said.
“We have 12 new faces to this squad so the game in Roma will give us a first look at where everyone sits.
“We are looking to build cohesion early so we’re putting out an experienced tight five to build a foundation for the way we want to play.
“Mel has played a lot in the centres but she also offers a lot in attack coming from the back. She’s a really skilful player and fullback offers more flexibility around where she pops up.
“We’ll trial her there.”
Wallaroos duo Sarah Dougherty and Carys Dallinger will steer the side from halfback and flyhalf respectively.
Ava Wereta has been developed through the rugby sevens pathway for this chance at inside centre in the 15-a-side game.
Likewise, teenager Shalom Sauaso is a skilful, physical sevens prospect in the backs from Bond University at the start of her rugby journey.
American recruit Charli Jacoby will play off the bench. The 24-Test USA Women’s Eagles prop only started training with the Reds this week after flying in from Chicago.
The 28-strong squad includes Renee Donpon, a prop who will feel right at home. She is from Roma and caught the eye of selectors as a standout in the Australian Rugby Championships late last year.
“Renee has flown back and forth from Roma to join us for training periods. It’s great to have her involved because of her ARC form while Shalom will play 15-a-side for the first time in Roma,” Anderson said.
“It’s exciting to have our first hitout. It’s a new era for us just as it is for the men’s team.”
The Waratahs have named a strong side under captain Georgina Friedrichs. Also included is Wallaroos lock Annabelle Codey, who will play against last year’s Queensland Reds teammates for the first time.
5pm AEST Saturday 10 February
Gallas Fox Park, Roma
Watch the live broadcast via Stan Sport
- Madi Schuck
- Tiarna Molloy
- Tina Brown
- Aleena Greenhalgh
- Deni Ross
- Amelia Brown
- Haidee Head
- Jemma Bemrose
- Sarah Dougherty
- Carys Dallinger
- Ivania Wong
- Ava Wereta
- Alana Elisaia
- Caitlin Urwin
- Mel Wilks
- April Ngatunpuna
- Isabelle Robinson
- Charli Jacoby
- Grace Sullivan
- Ashlee Knight
- Lucy Thorpe
- Maggie Mcconnachie
- Grace Baker
- Piper Flynn
- Renee Donpon
- Mercedes Tauelei-Siala
- Dianne Waight
- Shalom Sauaso