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First Nations jersey a good fit for Schuck

Madison Schuck has gone from realising a childhood dream to celebrating the Dreamtime in one emotion-charged week as a Wallaroo.

The tears of joy Schuck shed during the national anthem on her Australian debut on Friday could cascade into a flood with her elevation to the starting side for the Wallaroos’ Test against Japan at The Canal on Tuesday night.

It is rare for subsequent games to match the excitement of a debut, but Schuck’s elation at finally crashing through to be the Bull Sharks’ first ever national 15s player, after years of representative rejection, will be eclipsed when the Wallaroos wear a First Nations-inspired jersey for the first time in the program’s history.

The side will kick-off proceedings by singing “Wandah jageegan jagun,” which means Rise up, Beautiful Country, our national anthem translated into the language of the local Yugambeh people.

“I’m honestly speechless,’’ Schuck said.

“On Friday I couldn’t believe it was actually happening and then to get the starting spot in that jersey at my home club, I’m half expecting to wake up and it will all be a dream.

“Just to wear that jersey, sing the anthem and to play the game on Country, I’m really going to have to work hard to hold it together.

“The whole experience has just been amazing. We got a lesson on the anthem last night from the Yugambeh youth choir and the girls have been singing it all day today.’’

Schuck is uncertain which mob she belongs to as her grandmother was a part of the Stolen Generation. When asked, she simply says she was born on Turrbal country and now lives on Yugambeh country.

“l’m Murri born and bred and I bleed Red,’’ the Bond Bull Sharks captain and Queensland Reds player said. 

The 30-year-old forced her way into the starting side with a strong second half showing after coming off the bench against Fijiana at Suncorp Stadium.

Wallaroos coach Jay Tregonning has seven Test matches to finetune his preparations for the World Cup but rather than rotate through every player in the squad as a fact-finding exercise, he says he has picked the side on merit.

"Every Test match is special; we want to play our best team every Test," he said.

The jersey is designed by contemporary Noongar Artist Seantelle Walsh and captures the essence of the Mother country by depicting the connection between women and their spirit, ancestors and shared history.

It represents a strong female spirit, connection to country and the Dreamtime, the Wallaroos team, women’s business, and uniting to overcome barriers.

“We have spoken a lot around how we represent Australia and our First Nations culture, and I think this jersey depicts all the key values we have in the side,” Tregonning said.

“Not only is this jersey significant to our current squad but to the whole women’s Rugby community in Australia, and the playing group couldn’t be more honoured to wear the strip.”

The Wallaroos celebrated ending their 956-day Test match drought with an impressive 36-19 defeat of Fiji in Brisbane on Friday.

Denied a chance to play a Test since 2019 because of Covid-19, the Wallaroos were given a tough return to international rugby by a dangerous Fijiana side loaded with talent from Fijiana Drua that recently romped undefeated to the Super W title in their maiden season.

And things aren’t expected to get any easier against Japan who beat Fijiana last week.

The Wallaroos will go on to play Tests against USA, Canada and then three games against New Zealand in the lead-up to the World Cup.

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