THE region has produced its share of Wallabies over the years and now it can lay claim to a Wallaroo.
In France tonight, Quirindi-born Brooke Saunders will wear Wallaroos gold on the biggest rugby stage there is – the World Cup.
It will be the 29 year old’s first major tournament with the Wallaroos after making her debut in the recent international series against New Zealand and Canada.
“I’m really excited,” Saunders said.
The tournament kicks off for the Wallaroos with a match-up against South Africa.
Saunders will play lock, ironically the same position as fellow Quirindi product and recent Wallabies debutant Sam Carter.
Now based in Brisbane where she is in the Air Force, Saunders has strong ties to the region.
She was born in Quirindi and lived there for about 16 years, and also lived in Tamworth for a time.
Her step grandparents Fran and Bob Kerr still do and are out at Calala, while mum Wendy and step-dad Wayne Kerr live in Gunnedah.
Saunders got her footballing grounding in touch football.
“I’ve basically been playing touch since I was about five years old,” she said.
“I got into rugby league for a couple of years, then started playing rugby sevens and got into 15s.”
She said she hasn’t looked back since moving to union.
“I love the free flow,” she said.
Touch and league are both a bit more regimented in that you only get the ball for a set number if plays.
She also enjoys the tackle contest, although she wasn’t always so in the thick of it as she is at lock – starting out as a fullback.
“I played a couple of seasons with Sunnybank and the Defence team at fullback,” she said.
“It was only last year I moved to lock.”
It’s a move that has certainly paid off.
The excitement is for Saunders tempered with a bit of anxiety, but she said being involved in the recent Tri-nations had abated a lot of the nerves.
She got a lot of the “firsts” out of the way, and has a better idea of what to expect.
The Wallaroos are looking to improve on their third place in the last World Cup.
They open their campaign against South Africa, and then tackle Wales on August 5 (live 11pm) and France on August 10 (live 4.45am).
The hosts will pose a huge challenge.
“The French will be a hard test,” Saunders said.
“They’re coming off the back of winning the Six Nations.”
The side is coached by former NSW Country coach – and brother of Pirates coach Andrew Verrell – Paul Verrell.
n Tonights game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2 from 11.45pm.