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Skipper Hancock savours PM XIII leadership

Steph Hancock says she’s retired “20,000 times” but Jillaroos coach Brad Donald has left the door ajar for one more comeback at next month’s World Cup.

The 40-year-old was lured back as captain Sunday’s historic Prime Minister’s XIII encounter with Papua New Guinea, the first to be played on Australian soil.

Leading a side featuring five rookies out of the Indigenous Women’s Academy in Canberra, Hancock scored a try in a powerful 64-6 win at Suncorp Stadium.

Brisbane winger Shenae Ciesiolka score three of the 12 tries against a side featuring many players who hadn’t even been to Australia before and not played as a side since an upset win over England three year ago.

Donald said Hancock was among many to press their case for a spot in the final squad for next month’s World Cup in England.

“Nobody’s been picked yet and (they’re) sticking their hands up tonight,” he said.

“Steph’s first World Cup was in 2003 … it’s been a long journey and the next week or two is going to be really long .. for those waiting on selection.”

Aware of the stacked field of front-rowers putting their cases forward, Hancock skirted around the prospect of helping Australia chase a third-straight Cup.

“I’ve retired 20,000 times,” she said.

“I absolutely love this, this jersey. And I’m so honoured that Brad gave me another chance back in it. It was so enjoyable.”

The Orchids improved in the second half, fullback Joanne Lagona showing a clean set of heals out of dummy-half to beat four defenders for a brilliant try.

“It was always going to be a steep learning curve for them. The Australian competition’s gone up in leaps and bounds (since the Orchids last played a game in 2019),” coach Ben Jeffries.

“We’re trying to set some standards; we’ll stick together and I’ll guarantee they’ll fight ’til the end.”

They will be sweating on the availability of Gloria Kaupa, who captained with regular skipper Elsie Albert on NRLW duties with St George Illawarra.

She was sin-binned for shoulder contact on Baylee Davies in the second minute, the Indigenous Women’s Academy unable to return.

“The poor thing, it’s not great, but she’s going to be OK and the experience she’s gained during the week will hold her well and we’ll see her running around in NRLW,” Donald said.

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