World Cup: Australian Jillaroos, hot competition for the No. 9 jersey

The race for the No.9 starting jersey is heating up as the upcoming NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership season will go a long way in determining who will be Australia’s next dummy-half.

The Jillaroos are blessed with a rich history of talented dummy halves, led by former player Nat Dwyer, and the hookers currently available will be a headache for Aussie coach Brad Donald for months to come.

In a 10-week editorial series, takes a look at who is vying for a World Cup spot in Harvey Norman’s Australia Jillaroos, thanks to lead partner Harvey Norman by position.

  • Position: hooker
  • Available World Championship places: 2

Just two spots on the Jillaroos World Cup roster are up for grabs for specialized dummy halves, with hopes that a few auxiliaries in the roster can also step in during the tournament if needed.

The Jillaroos used Brittany Breayley-Nati primarily as the hooker during the 2017 tournament, while retired hand Lavina O’Mealey also filled in the dummy half.

Breayley-Nati started in the World Cup Final while O’Mealey and Roosters playmaker Zahara Temara came on as a substitute against New Zealand.

In 2019, Botille Vette-Welsh was the auxiliary in the No. 14 jersey, transitioning with incumbent Keeley Davis.

Pensioner Lavina O’Mealey played hooker during the 2017 World Cup.
©NRL Photos

The incumbent

Keeley Davis (St George Illawarra Dragons)

Dragons hooker Keeley Davis made her Test debut against New Zealand in 2019, pulling off a rare feat by going straight to a national shirt despite not having played against State of Origin before.

Davis started her career in halves but has transitioned to hooker in recent seasons and has made every post a winner.

Keeley Davis made her international debut in 2019 ahead of an Origin debut.
Keeley Davis made her international debut in 2019 ahead of an Origin debut.
© Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

She capitalized on her chance at national level when Brittany Breayley-Nati withdrew from the last friendly due to work and family reasons.

Davis has since made her Origin debut and still remains a season-ending leader for the No. 9 jersey.

The Contenders

There are a few candidates hot on Davis’ heels for the hook role heading into NRLW Season 5 and the World Championships in November.

Captain of the Titans Brittany Breayley Nati is an obvious contender with 10 Tests to her name since making her international debut against the Kiwi Ferns in 2014.

The 2018 Dally M medalist made a timely return to the game this year after a 12-month hiatus, finishing the 2021 NRLW season with two tries and three assists in six appearances.

At the Dragons, Davis’ NSW teammate Quincy Dodd also had a similar transition to hooker in recent years and would be a handy player for any squad, especially coming off the bench.

The co-captain of the Indigenous All Stars allowed Davis to transition into a ball-playing first receiver role when she took the field, a combo that has worked at the Origin level as well.

Recruit new roosters destiny glasses spent time with Hooker and Lock during her time with the Titans and is expected to do so again with the Tricolors Shawden Burton and Chante Temara also in their books.

Brill is an exciting teenage talent coming through the ranks but is likely a little behind Davis, Breayley-Nati and Dodd in the pecking order at this stage.

knight whore Olivia Higgins had an impressive NRLW first season with the Roosters and is worth another mention as she will be playing for her local team at the Hunter.

She will compete for Newcastle’s No 9 shirt with North Queensland produce Emma Mannelmannwho returns to the Knights after a strong personal season earlier this year.

Aspiring young savages Beets Cherrington and Lily-Rose Kolcwho excelled in this year’s under-19 program will be battling for spots in 2025 after earning NRLW contracts for the upcoming season.

Another utility that adds value with Hooker is Renee Targett with the NFL convert signed by the Dragons for another season.

The bolter

New Titans recruits Lauren Brown may join the club to play in the halves, but her half efforts with the Broncos earlier this year will be enough to convince everyone of her status as one of the best providers in the game.

Brown took on the hooker role at Red Hill earlier this year, returning with five try assists, six line break assists, four forced line drop outs and averaging 87.9 kick yards per game.

After leading NRLW with 38 points and 19 goals scored last season, Brown picked up the club’s Players Award before announcing her departure to the Titans.

Although she will play in a different position alongside Breayley-Nati with the Titans, the pair teamed up for the Maroons in June to offer their own double strike from the dummy half.

She could easily board a flight to England and play as rake after ending a halfway NRLW season.

Lauren Brown could easily get into the Jillaroos squad for the World Cup.
Lauren Brown could easily get into the Jillaroos squad for the World Cup.
©David Hossack/NRL Photos

The last word

“We have a plethora of players who can play hookers and that’s going to make some decisions there really difficult. Keeley is our incumbent at the moment but you also have Britto who held the shirt for a few years before that. Quincy Dodd has played some great footy and Lauren Brown is also an option. Thinking back to the workload with our forward pack, it’s good to have utility players who can play anywhere in the park and it’s the same here with our dummy halves. We’ve seen the hooker role evolve over the past few years has developed, having a kicking game is really handy and with 80-minute matches over there they have to go through a lot of work defensively too.” – Jillaroos coach Brad Donald.

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