19 Nov 2022
Captain Apps World Cup journey from Bega Valley to Old Trafford
Jillaroos dominate New Zealand to win third consecutive women's title 54-4
By James Toney at Old Trafford
Kezie Apps’ journey from the Bega Valley to Old Trafford is one of those sporting stories of friendship and family.
Apps loved footy from an early age, playing in the same Bega Roosters side as two-time NRL Premiership winner Dale Finucane until she turned 12 and was told it was 'only for boys'.
She didn't even know Australia had a women's international team until she saw Ali Brigginshaw lift the Rugby League World Cup trophy on television in 2013.
Fast forward nine years and she joined Brigginshaw on the podium as her Jillaroos co-captain, the defending champions scorching rivals New Zealand to win a third consecutive title 54-4 in Manchester.
"Ali was the one who inspired me to take up this sport again, I didn't even know it was possible until I saw her win in 2013," she said.
"I'm standing on the shoulders of all those girls who paved the way for this team and I can't wait to see what the next three years brings."
At 32 you'd forgive Brigginshaw - now a three-time World Cup winner - to be wanting to take it easy and spend some time with her wife and children back home in Queensland.
But after another player of the match final performance, her brilliant halfback display at the centre of Australia's creative industry, she's already thinking of more at the next tournament in France. It seems the next three years will be spent the only way she knows how - full on.
"I've come out of my shell more as I've got older," she said, delighting younger team-mates with her on-pitch breakdancing as they celebrated their win.
"I've just really enjoyed myself on this tour and I don't want this feeling to stop. I don't want to put a stop on when I finish playing. People talk about my age all the time, it's a credit to my wife and kids at home who support me that I don't think about it.
"I've set my sights on France, so let's go. We've got lots of halves coming through but let's just see how the ride goes.
"It's been a challenging year with my form but I love this jersey and when I have the support of these girls, I know they believe in me."
Some questioned the decision of Jillaroos coach Brad Donald to rotate his squad, packed with NRLW talent, so extensively during this tournament.
Combinations were tried, tested, scratched and revised for virtually every game, unconventional tactics which caused some observers to raise eyebrows.
But it was to prove inspired, especially with four-day turnarounds between some matches, in a competition that rattled along at warp speed.
New Zealand, who took a more consistent approach to selection, appeared to run out of puff at Old Trafford while Australia were simply unstoppable, Brigginshaw at the heart of almost all their ten tries.
"We had full belief in Brad, we all bought into what he was trying to do," she added.
Donald, his decisions now vindicated as Australia stretched their unbeaten run to five years and 13 games, wore a look of pride and relief at the hooter.
But rarely has a World Cup seen such dominance, the Jillaroos scoring a whopping 312 points in just five games, a team very much in a league of their own.
"We got criticism for changing the team all the time but my definition of talent is about adaptability," he said.
"The plan was always to use all 24 girls and I'm just ecstatic for this group. They are the greatest bunch of athletes and we've got so many more back in Australia too.
"They just stepped up, this is everything we have spoken and dreamed about."