Expect Hawke's Bay's first State of Origin rugby league player Courtney Tamati to feature in next year's Flaxmere Heroes Calendar.
"Not bad aye my bro ... from Flaxmere to junior State of Origin," stated the text from Tamati's proud father, former MAC and Hastings High School Old Boys premier rugby player, MAC and Omahu Huia league player and former Hawke's Bay softball rep Corey Tamati to yours truly after the Queensland under-18 girls team was announced on Friday.
Tamati, 16, will start at scrumhalf when the Queensland team takes on their New South Wales counterparts at North Sydney Oval on June 21 in the curtainraiser to the women's clash between the same two states. The fact she hasn't played for eight weeks because of a knee injury added to the significance of her selection.
"It's 100 per cent now and I will test it in a game situation this weekend," Brisbane-based former Flaxmere Primary School pupil Tamati said.
"I see this as another step towards my long-term goal of playing for the world champion Jillaroos within four more years," added Tamati, who is a huge fan of Jillaroos standoff Ali Brigginshaw.
The under-18 side will train alongside the Queensland women's team for three days on the Gold Coast from Monday before flying to Sydney on the following Thursday.
"Courtney was pretty lucky to get in considering the amount of time she has had out of the game. She was obviously picked on previous form and what she has done at Queensland age group camps in the past," her father explained.
"She has a good understanding of the game and most importantly she loves it. She used to play a few other sports but these days it's just league. There's a huge difference in sporting opportunities over here compared with back home," he said.
A Mabel Park State High School Year 12 student in Brisbane, Tamati, plays her club league for the Waterford club. In 2017 she was a member of Queensland Rugby League's under-15 development squad and in January last year Tamati had her first taste of a Queensland under-18 squad camp.
Before shifting to Queensland four-and-a-half years ago, Tamati, played representative touch for the Hawke's Bay under-11s and club touch for Outkast Sports and Galaxy. Despite not playing club football she was selected for the Hawke's Bay under-12 team after being spotted during a coaching visit to Flaxmere Primary.
Although she didn't play league while in Hawke's Bay Tamati played rugby union for MAC and was coached by Ihaka and Jackson Waerea.
One of five brothers and sisters in her family, Tamati, boasts sporting genes which were always going to work in her favour. Her mother Vanessa is an aunty of former world champion touch player and former Magpies rugby player Nui Bartlett. Another former Magpie, Darryl Tamati, is among her uncles.
Top coaches in the Queensland league system have regularly ranked Tamati among the best players in her age group during the past three years. She's got tremendous pace and all the skills, in particular the ability to step off either foot with the same amount of ease.
Tamati, who is a distant relative of Hawke's Bay's Kiwis rugby league legend Kevin Tamati on her great grandmother's side, is tipped to secure a spot in a women's NRL team in 2021 and she should be ticking off her Jillaroos goal the following year.
Another Hawke's Bay export to Queensland, Riki Sullivan, coached Tamati when she first arrived in Queensland. When he saw she was too good for the boys of her age who she was playing against Sullivan suggested to a coach of older female players that he take her under his wing.
Tamati's latest selection suggests that decision has paid off big time.