Hawke's Bay's first State of Origin league player Courtney Tamati has become the Bay's first women's NRL player.
Scrumhalf Tamati, 17, who played for the Queensland under-18 girls team against their New South Wales counterparts in June last year is playing for the Sydney Roosters Indigenous Academy team in the Tarsha Gale Cup under-18 girls competition.
"Every NRL club has a team in this competition and I've got a one-season development player contract with the Roosters," Tamati explained.
She graduated from Mabel Park State High School in Brisbane last year and is one of two Brisbane-based players who travel to Sydney each week to train and play for the Roosters.
"The Roosters are a more family orientated team. I had the opportunity to train with the Roosters women's Nines team and next year I will have the opportunity to step up to the Roosters women's team. I have been the starting No 7 to date and the goals are to retain that berth and keep improving my all round game," Tamati said.
Her Roosters side have won three of their four games to date in their competition. On Saturday they beat Wests Tigers 24-8 at Morry Breen Oval in Sydney and sit third on the ladder.
The previous weekend they were beaten 18-10 by the Canberra Raiders after previously beating the Panthers 14-10 and the Parramatta Eels 30-nil.
Tamati sees her selection as another step towards her long-term goal of playing for the world champion Australia Jillaroos women's team within three years.
Her 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 has no qualms with his daughter chasing the Aussie jersey instead of a Kiwi Ferns jersey.
"Whatever makes her happy. She has done her community really proud over here," he said.
Before shifting to Queensland 5-1/2 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 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 aunt of former world champion touch and former Magpies rugby player Nui Bartlett. Another former Magpie, Darryl Tamati, is among her uncles.
She is also a distant relative of Hawke's Bay's Kiwis league legend, Kevin Tamati, on her great-grandmother's side.
Sydney Roosters junior representative and pathways manager Blake Cavallaro said Tamati has the potential to play for the Roosters women's NRL team in May when the under-18 competition finishes.
"Courtney will be part of the NRLW program as a development player this year to learn and develop with international women players. The NRL only has four teams that participate in this competition and we see a lot of value in Courtney progressing in this pathway. We see a bright future with Courtney being part of our women's system for a long duration of time."