Talk about a steep learning curve.

Four months ago Jules Newman had never played a game of rugby league – but next month she will be part of the Warriors' Women's team in the second season of the NRLW.

Her rise has been swift, sometimes that doesn't tend to happen these days in elite sport, with emphasis placed on years of incremental learning and skill development, and especially not for a 30-year-old.

"It's unbelievable," said Newman. "I'm continually having to pinch myself, as clichéd as it sounds. I'm literally three months into league and the fact that I am here is amazing."


Newman came from a long rugby background; she was a North Harbour representative and had been in the mix for a Black Ferns spot, but that doesn't mean the transition was straightforward, as previous cross code converts have shown.

"People don't think there is too much difference, but in terms of positional play there is a huge difference," explained Newman. "I'm trying to get comfortable being uncomfortable and to learn at sprint. And I'm always taking heaps of notes, I'm a big note taker."

Newman's diversion into league started with a chance conversation with harbour sevens teammate and long time Kiwi Fern Georgia Hale last December, during a van trip to the rugby sevens nationals in Tauranga.

"She told me about the Warriors' open trial and said 'would you like to have a crack?'," said Newman. "I laughed at her and said 'I don't know how to play league or what to do'. But she encouraged me to come down and see how it goes. I guess she planted the seed."

So Newman turned up, along with 60 other hopefuls, to Mt Smart Stadium in mid-February, and made an immediate, if unusual impression.

"She was very green," recalled Warriors coach Luisa Aviaki. "She didn't even know how to play the ball. But you could tell she was an athlete. I wasn't sure what sports she had played but she was very professional, keen to listen and learn. She did well in our fitness testing so stood out straight away."

For her part Newman had arrived with no expectations, but realised it would be a trip into the unknown.

"We had to do a ruck play and I didn't know what that was, because rucks are a different thing in union," said Newman. "Later Morgs (assistant coach Justin Morgan) pulled me aside. He said 'Jules, you need to go back to marker', I said I don't what a bloody marker is."

Jules Newman of the Warriors Women. Photo / Photosport
Jules Newman of the Warriors Women. Photo / Photosport

The coaches invited her back for the second open trial, then made her aware she was on their radar.

Newman decided to take the plunge, joining the Mt Albert club for the Auckland Women's competition.

She made an impact, and was selected for the Kiwis Ferns squad for the match with Fetu Samoa in June. During that camp she was offered a spot with the Warriors.

"I was pretty emotional," said Newman. "At the same time I was trying to ride the wave with the Kiwi Ferns … I didn't even realise I was going to make that squad so it was a lot of emotion to try and juggle."

At that stage she decided to commit fully to the 13-a side code.

"My whole family were like, 'are you sure this is what you want to do?' But I decided I could always go back to rugby, I may not get back into the Black Ferns environment, but I couldn't turn down this opportunity. But my family were a bit shocked at first."


Newman, who works as an cultural strategist for an IT company, credits her rise to a strong network, paying particular tribute to club coach Victor Heke ("one of my biggest mentors") and her Mt Albert teammates.

The NRLW kicks off in mid-September, with the Warriors pitted against the Broncos, Dragons and Roosters.

"I'm still getting to know the girls, still learning the terminology but the decision was for me to grow as a person, I have to do this," said Newman. "And my family and friends know that when I set my mind to something, I'll give it 120 per cent."