‘Really surreal’: Bowen’s own to make State of Origin debut
EVERY time the Maroons scored a try in State of Origin when Shaniah Power was growing up, she would run out onto the veranda with her siblings in Bowen and scream ‘QUEENSLAND!’.
Now she can’t quite believe she’ll be pulling on the maroon jersey herself on Friday in the NRLW State of Origin squad.
“It’s still really surreal,” Power said.
“If you would have told me I would be here, I would have laughed.”
Power started playing rugby league at 17, joining the Whitsunday Brahmans and then working through all stages of representative footy, including being selected for the North Queensland Marlins.
Before last year, she estimated she had played no more than 20 games of league as there were not a lot of opportunities for women to play the sport in North Queensland.
She left the sport for a while to play rugby union but returned to league last year and has been on an upward trajectory ever since.
Power was brought into the Cowboys Women’s Academy when it launched late last year and was then selected for the Indigenous All Stars side in early 2020.
Power said more opportunities opened up after she left her job as a teacher aide in Townsville and moved to Brisbane in July to play in the Holcim Cup for West Brisbane Panthers.
The second-rower then got the call up from the New Zealand Warriors and made her NRLW debut in October, before launching into the State of Origin camp.
Power said she fell in love with rugby league quickly as a teenager.
“I’m not a very physically aggressive person, it’s an outlet in a way,” she said.
“I love the contact, I love running into people and tackling them.”
The 23 year old, who is temporarily based in Brisbane, credits her years playing touch football in Bowen under teacher and coach BJ Freeman, who at that time was working at Queens Beach State School, with developing her skills.
The ball skills and field vision she learnt translated well to rugby league, she said.
“He definitely pushed us and I feel like he’s one of the people who made me the player that I am,” Power said.
“If he hadn’t taken the time to make us better then I don’t think I’d be here.”
Power has also put in the work taking care of her diet and training to work her way up the league ladder, including enduring zoom training sessions during coronavirus lockdown.
She also described herself as a “sponge” for tips and tricks.
“One of the best traits I have is the ability to listen; I listen to everyone’s opinion or advice and I pick the things that suits me the best,” Power said.
“I’ll give their way a try and if it doesn’t work I’ll try something else.”
She was relieved to find out on Tuesday she had made the State of Origin team, especially considering the skilled players in the squad.
“I just knew that it was going to be a hard decision for the coaches to make,” Power said.
“Every girl that’s here is so talented so to cut from 20 to 17 would have been really hard.”
Aside from her achievements on the field, Power said she had also made lifelong friends through her sport.
She encouraged other young girls to maintain their enjoyment in the sport and stay focused if they wanted to excel on the field.
“Always give 100 per cent of yourself at training and stay humble,” Power said.
“It is something that needs to be said because it can feel like it can get into your head a bit.
“But stay grounded and stay connected to your family.”
Power puts her own advice into action and returns home to see her family in Bowen whenever she has spare time.
She’s planning to continue playing the sport she loves and is also in the process of applying to be part of the police service.
Power will line up for Queensland in the State of Origin match at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Friday at 6.45pm.