Queensland star Steph Hancock has made herself available for selection in next month's inaugural Women's State Of Origin clash at North Sydney Oval, despite her recent retirement from Jillaroos duties.
Hancock bowed out of the international game after winning last year's World Cup alongside fellow co-captain Renae Kunst, but has been playing club rugby league for Souths Magpies in Brisbane and is expected to represent Queensland Country in next month's National Championships which will act as an Origin selection trial.
The rampaging prop has been battling an ankle injury, but is still expected to be fit for the Country Championships.
New Queensland women's coach Jason Hetherington told Fairfax Media that Hancock was available for selection.
"She's in the mix," Hetherington said. "I haven't picked the side yet, I've got to see what happens, I'm going to pick on what they're doing.
"She's got a bit of a bad ankle at the moment, hopefully that all comes well and she puts herself in the fray and we come up with the right 17 for [Origin]. The Nationals is going to play a big part in it too."
Kunst will not play, depsite playing some club rugby league in Brisbane this season. Hancock's selection would prove a huge boost to Queensland looking to avoid a third-straight loss to NSW.
For the first time the women will play under the banner of State Of Origin as a standalone fixture, to be held on Friday night at North Sydney Oval on June 22, two days before the second men's Origin clash in Sydney.
NSW has won the previous two interstate challenges, but prior to that Queensland enjoyed a 17-year stranglehold over the Blues, winning each match for the first 16 years of competition and retaining the crown in 2015 through a draw.
Former NSW, Raiders, Storm and Knights prop Ben Cross took charge in 2016 as head coach and has helped engineer a changing of the guard.
"I've been involved now for three years and the desire to pull on that Blues jersey is just as much as the men's level," Cross said.
"That's what Queensland and NSW are all about at this level of rugby league whether it be females or males.
"Not so great times for NSW over the last 10 years at the men's level, hopefully we can keep pushing through the winning ways.
"We suffered our own heartbreak for 16 years not winning a game at the women's level. That Origin word is synonymous to giving back to your roots, your origins, the junior guys you played with, your junior coaches coming through. You get to give back on a big stage so it's something very special for these ladies."
NSW captain Ruan Sims is facing the prospect of going up against her sister Canecia, who qualifies for the Maroons given her first senior game of rugby league was in Queensland.
Sims has shelved any thoughts of international retirement with the hope of one day playing alongside her sister for Australia, but before that day comes the pair could be up against each other in the Origin arena.
"She's shown immense talent, she's big, she's strong and she's physical and she wants it," Sims said. "That's what footballers need to have they want to have that drive and hunger and she's definitely got that.
"There's some stiff opposition there but she's hungry. She's got a really good coach in Nat Dwyer who's an ex-Jillaroo herself. She's a sponge, she soaks up everything that comes her way, I'm very proud of her for the leaps and bounds she's made in the last 12, 18 months.
"This is a change in vocabulary that we've been working towards for the last few years, it shows the value that the game places on the women's game and the types of changes that we're making in the social space as well.
"To open up rep weekend hopefully to a sellout crowd here at the iconic North Sydney Oval is an amazing prospect."
James Buckley writes on AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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