Luisa Avaiki went from selling T-shirts so she could play for her country, to rubbing shoulders with league's greatest figures at the Melbourne Storm.
When it comes to the story of women's league, Avaiki has just about seen and done it all.
As the inaugural coach of the Warriors NRL team and the NZRL development/wellbeing manager, she is continuing to drive the women's game forward.
But she has also operated in the men's world, in groundbreaking ways here and in the NRL.
No one will be prouder when the New Zealand and Samoan women's teams square off at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday next week, before the Kiwis play Tonga in the historic double header.
Avaiki - who was raised in central and west Auckland - has played sport for New Zealand and Samoa, and is now the assistant to the Kiwi Ferns head coach Justin Morgan.
Avaiki was an excellent junior basketballer and touch rugby player who took up league with the Richmond club in Grey Lynn halfway through the 1994 season.
Less than a year later, she was part of the inaugural Kiwi Ferns side which - as you might imagine - operated on a shoe string in those pioneering times.
The initial adventure in 1995 was a hectic nine match tour of Australia, the price of participation being $2000 per player with just two weeks' warning to raise it.
"We did things like raffles, held socials, applied for grants, and our clubs helped out," she recalls about a groundbreaking team made up of players from many sports, such as the international softballer Zavana Aranga.
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"We even sold inaugural team T-shirts with all the girls names on them for $25 and our friends and families bought them all."
The tour itself was one of camaraderie, a memorable all-day bus trip from Canberra to Queensland, and tough three day turnarounds between games.
Five years later it was off to the World Cup in England, a $2500 exercise for each player.
Laying these early foundations came at a cost for players and their families, including some tour members having to take leave without pay.
Avaiki - who was studying for a BA in english/education - said the support from families was amazing.
"They were so proud that we were representing New Zealand," says Avaiki.
"We trained bloody hard, because we never wanted to make excuses. And our families had sacrificed so much for us."
Avaiki was in the Ferns sides which won the first three World Cup in 2000, 2003 and 2008, and the bruising prop captained the last two. But the league adventure was not going to stop there.
She had already turned heads by coaching a Richmond boys team through the under 16, 18 and 20 grades, and an amazing NRL opportunity via her friendship with the former All Black forward Andrew Blowers emerged.
The pair had worked in the youth-orientated Michael Jones Village Sports Academy. After Blowers joined the Melbourne Storm in a development role, he rang Avaiki in 2014 alerting her to a similar opportunity.
From an initial applicant list of about 100, and after a trans-Tasman phone interview, she was "really shocked" to land the job.
It was opposing teams who got a bit of a shock, when Victoria appointed Avaiki as assistant coach to their under-16 boys team which played in Queensland's Cyril Connell Cup.
"I was certainly the only woman doing any coaching at that level," she recalls.
"I'd hear the odd comment and people would think I was the trainer or manager or physio.
"It was the same thing when I coached the Richmond boys for three years. It was very unusual and I'd always hear these whispers but I'd just laugh about it.
"I did all the coaching courses and it would be me and a load of blokes. I'd walk into the room and there would be all these surprised looks.
"I'm always grateful for the way Richmond encouraged and supported me."
Avaiki, one of seven kids, always had the experience of battling brothers in back yard sports like bull rush to call on as a woman in an all male world.
"They told me to suck it up," she says.
"They said 'If you play you can't cry'. It built up my resilience."
Her observations about the Melbourne Storm and how coach Craig Bellamy and their legendary players including captain Cameron Smith operate are certainly interesting, given the club's eternal success.
"What I did learn being part of that culture reinforced beliefs I had from growing up in a generation where you didn't make excuses," she says of her three years in Melbourne.
"It is about the character of a person. They have a policy…you can't be an egg. Anything you do off the field reflects back to the club.
"It's about underpinning values, and everyone is on board. Stars like Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater never complained about things like visiting schools or whatever.
"To them it was a pleasure, to do it for the kids and to promote rugby league.
"And Craig Bellamy is such a nice dude. He's really humble. He is just a really genuine guy and I think a lot of the success is simply about the connection he has with his players.
"You could see that in the farewell speeches from Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk. They talked about how hard he was on them on the field, and yet they would also call him a good mate."
She says there is a cheeky side to Smith that people don't see, that within the club confines he has a rare ability to make everyone feel they belong, to enjoy the game, and not be ground down by pressure.
She also said that the professionalism, precision and intensity of the Storm's trainings was something to behold.
Avaiki has made quite some contribution, had some sort of league education, experienced amazing changes in her sport.
There have obviously been major advancements since the mid 1990s, with greater opportunities, profile, pathways and support for women players via the Warriors etc.
Avaiki also points out, however, that when she took up the game there were 36 Auckland women's club teams. Now there are 12.
And whereas she lost only once during a 14-year test career, Australia now reign supreme.
Back in 1995, when the Kiwi Ferns didn't even fall under the control of the New Zealand Rugby League, the first coach was Janie Thompson from the Otahuhu club.
It's not too much of a stretch to think that Avaiki might restore the tradition of a woman coaching the Kiwi Ferns one day. It would be a very satisfying full circle.
"One of the main driving forces for us was to be ambassadors and develop something other girls would benefit from," she says of the pioneers.
"I'm still friends with some of those players today. Every time we see progression for our women, it makes me and a lot of the other old girls very proud."