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Wallaroos veteran Iliseva Batibasaga makes one last wish upon revealing retirement

Wallaroos v Fijiana
Liz Patu (from left), Iliseva Batibasaga and Shannon Parry of the Wallaroos stand together during the national anthem. (Getty)

Retiring Wallaroos veteran Iliseva Batibasaga says the sport is in better shape than when she arrived but believes there’s still work to be done for Australia to succeed.

Off the back of making it to the Rugby World Cup semi-final in which Australia lost to England, Batibasaga has called time on her two-decade-long career.

All told, she represented Australia on 26 occasions after making her debut at the 2006 Rugby World Cup.

Wallaroos v Japan
Iliseva Batibasaga of the Wallaroos passes during a Test between Australia and Japan. (Chris Hyde via Getty Images)

It was only in her penultimate match this year that she finally became a try scorer.

Since debuting, the sport has slowly grown to the point where a selection of players has plied their trade as professionals.

Ultimately, Batibasaga believes the professional threshold will make or break the Wallaroos’ ambitions for a Rugby World Cup win.

“The Wallaroos are in need of a fully-funded professional program,” she said.

“It won’t happen overnight, but even a step toward a genuine commitment to our cause will see the Wallaroos become more successful.

“I’ve been part of an exclusive group that has seen women’s rugby in Australia shift over the years,” she added.

“We started out paying our own way to competitions and training camps, billeting with teammates, and only playing one or two Test matches a year.

“Now, we’re reimbursed for the time we take off work to attend camps, play Test matches and travel around representing Australia.

“This year, we played 10 Test matches, in preparation for the World Cup – that’s not a career milestone for me; it’s a milestone for Australian women’s rugby.”

Batibasaga initially set out to retire in 2021, though the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately postponed the Rugby World Cup and her plans too.

It comes more than 15 years on from her first start, which she remembered fondly.

“I was only 21 years old when I first sang the national anthem as a Wallaroo – I think I made it through two words before I started crying,” she said.

“Being able to relive my experiences at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand this year, and seeing the various stages of my career reflected in my teammates and their journeys has been so special.

“I originally planned to step down in 2021 – after the World Cup – but the pandemic foiled those timelines.

“The World Cup was moved to 2022, and I had a choice to make: should I push for another year, or retire now?

“With the help of family, coaches, friends, a sports psychologist, and some time away from rugby, I decided to give my all for one last year.”

Batibasaga will continue to play domestically in Super W for the Waratahs.

Written by
Daily Rugby

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