Tonegato plays way into Jillaroos side

After being left out his original squad, Jillaroos coach Brad Donald says Emma Tonegato has played her way into his best 17 for their Rugby League World Cup final meeting with New Zealand.

Tonegato was overlooked when Donald named his initial 24-player squad and was only called in when Newcastle's Tamika Upton withdrew due to injury.

The St George Illawarra No.1 played a starring role in their 82-0 semi-final win over Papua New Guinea in York.

She bagged a second-half hat-trick from fullback as the Jillaroos passed through to a third-straight final where they will meet the Kiwi Ferns, who claimed a 20-6 victory over England.

Australia beat the Kiwi Ferns 10-8 in the group stages and haven't lost to them since 2016.

The two sides will play as part of a doubler header involving the men's sides at Old Trafford on Saturday (Sunday AEDT).

Tonegato has been deployed at hooker, lock and fullback during this tour and while co-captain Sam Bremner is Australia's is likeliest No.1, Donald said the Olympic Gold medallist had made herself a must-pick.

"I didn't know Em' before this campaign and any position she says: 'yep, sure'," Donald said.

"Her tournament has been excellent and she'll be playing somewhere in the team, definitely in the 17.

"You can't do four-day turnarounds and play your best team, our best team could be any of the 24. As long as my bottom points to the ground, I believe that.

"The seven players who didn't play (against Papua New Guinea) will play in the final."

The Jillaroos began in imposing fashion at the LNER Community Stadium with Keeley Davis burrowing over from close range to kick off a run which would finish with them leading 40-0 by halftime.

Isabelle Kelly grabbed a first-half hat-trick with Evania Pelite, Shaylee Bent, Shenae Ciesiolka and Olivia Kernick joining her and Davis on the scoresheet before the interval.

The halftime break didn't halt the trouble for PNG, with Jessica Sergis going over in Australia's first set as Ciesiolka added one more and Tonegato chimed in with her treble.

Australia will head into the final as strong favourites to take out a third-straight title after keeping a third opponent at this tournament scoreless.

They had to withstand an intense period where Papua New Guinea were camped on their line but were able to keep them to zero.

"We were so happy with the performance and there is a hunger in this team that they didn't let them score," Donald said.

"The connection with this team is something special and there's a great camaraderie and culture around the Jillaroos jumper."


Australia v New Zealand, Old Trafford, Manchester, Sunday (Monday 12.15am AEDT)