Annika Jamieson may see herself as more of a “cultural leader” when it comes to the rugby teams she’s been with, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be leaving everything out on the field this weekend in the Melbourne Rebels’ first preseason outing.
After forging a Hunter legacy with the Waratahs both on and off the field in the past few years, Jamieson packed up her life in Newcastle, leaving the growing women’s competition here behind, and jetted down to Melbourne.
Jamieson made the southern switch in May last year, and returned to rugby after injury with Power House in the Victorian capital. Her performances there earned her a place in the Rebels trial squad, before she made the final cut.
Now Jamieson is just days away from running out in the Rebels colours for the first time, when the Super W squad faces the Brumbies at Parramore Oval on Sunday morning. She’s already looking forward to the February 2 hit out.
“Coming back from injuries, I wasn’t sure how [returning] would go, I had two ACL reconstructions, and then I had a shoulder injury, but as the season went along, and when I got invited for the trials, I knew I wanted to keep going,” she said.
“The program is so well-organised down here. As soon as I heard about everything that was happening, and I got the offer, I knew I wanted to be involved.”
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Jamieson may be playing in a Victorian squad for this Super W season, but she’s been lucky enough to find herself still surrounded by a group of Hunter alumni. All in all, there’s a group of four donning the Rebels colours with her this year.
As well as Jamieson, former Wallaroo and Easts-University’s 2019 captain-coach Brooke Saunders is set to play her first game for Melbourne in Wagga Wagga. Former Easts and Wanderers centre Ashleigh Walker will also be involved on Sunday, as will Maitland star Carmen Landkauf, who last played in the NHRU in 2012.
In fact, it was Maitland’s departed star Landkauf who first lured Jamieson and Walker to Power House ahead of their selection by the Rebels late last year.
“Carmen used to play with me at the Wanderers, and I started playing club rugby with her again—she’s a gun, she got so many player of the year awards in 2019,” Jamieson said, and joked “the Hunter flavour has truly arrived in Melbourne.”
Jamieson and the rest of the Hunter recruits join the Rebels as the club continue to search their first victory in the Super W. The Melbourne organisation joined the competition in 2018, and have struggled to peel themselves off the bottom of the ladder.
In their opening year, the club was whacked with a 0–4 record, before 2019 coughed up the same result. While it’s been a rough run for the Rebels in 2018-19, the record means the Hunter cohort could be involved in the club’s momentous first victory.
The Rebels open their campaign-proper in two weeks. The squad will play its first game of the season against the defending champions, the NSW Waratahs, on Friday, February 14 at AAMI Park as part of a Super Rugby double-header.
There, Jamieson and the rest of the Hunter cohort will come up against two more familiar faces: Super W champions and local Waratahs stars Cheech Barker and Maya Stewart, both of whom have re-signed with the state squad for 2020.
While Annika is no stranger to a few hit-ups against Cheech, who she faced in the Hunter competition “many times,” there’s an added element for Jamieson and Stewart when they meet at AAMI Park come the season opener.
“Look, I’m happy to claim it, I asked Maya if she wanted to come to try rugby because she was just playing the short-format at the time, so she came to a few trainings and tried it out, and from there she loved it,” Jamieson laughed.
“I gave her a bit of a nudge, of course, but I’d say it’s mostly her. Nah, just joking, she’s done amazingly! When we play, I’ll try to tackle her of course, but I think the trick is that you have to catch her first, and not many people can do that!”
Before the Rebels and Waratahs meet, however, there’s the trial match this weekend to play against the Brumbies. Three of the four Hunter team are expected to be included in the official roster announcement later this week.
Jamieson is expected to be named in the number 4 jersey in the starting XV. Saunders will lineup alongside her in the 5. Ashleigh Walker will also be involved in the game in the finishers squad for the trial, in number 28.
Rebels 2020 Super W Squad: Annika Jamieson, Ashleigh Walker, Ashley Marsters, Brooke Saunders, Carmen Landkauf, Eirenei Nanai, Faith Masina, Gabi Bryan, Georgia Cormick, Georgina Utia, Hayley Glass, Indiana Lewis, Janita Kareta, Jessica Campbell, Jessica (Sika) Rastrick, May Sa’aga, Melanie Kawa, Meretiana Robinson, Mikaela Welti, Nawel Remini, Nicola Emsley, Norma Fuaiva’a, Piper Tuifao, Sally Kehoe, Sheniqua Taula, Tayler Savage, Tiarah Minns, Titilia Yabaki, Tyra Boysen, Vani Va’aga, Lemamae Seu, Liana Pritchard, Santoria Faaofo-taula.