Kiwi Ferns co-captain Honey Hireme has been so inspired by her experiences in the NRLW she has shelved retirement plans — and might play beyond her 40th birthday.
Hireme, who will lead the Ferns in their transtasman battle on Saturday alongside Laura Mariu, is one of the most accomplished players in New Zealand league history.
She was a key figure in the 2008 and 2013 World Cup campaigns, before a stint in rugby.
The 37-year-old planned to play the inaugural NRLW season and then wind down her career, but now she could do the reverse.
Hireme wants to play next year and even has an eye on the 2021 World Cup.
"Before going into the Women's NRL I thought that was just going to be it for me...do that and wrap it all up," Hireme told the Herald.
"But I came off that physically really well, and mentally just keen for more. Now being back in [Ferns] camp I still have that huge fire burning, and I just want to keep doing it as long as I can do it, and do it well.
"I take it year by year, but there is already talk about the 2021 World Cup and if I can be a part of that, then I would love to. If I can look after my body and [maintain] the desire, then it is definitely on the cards for me."
It's a significant boost for the Ferns, as Hireme is still shining in the twilight of her career. She scored 13 tries in four matches at last year's World Cup — including two in the final — and was a standout for the Dragons in their NRLW campaign, named the coaches' player of the year.
The Hamilton-based Hireme has lost little of her pace or guile and remains one of the best broken field runners in the sport.
She's confident the Ferns can buck the recent trend of Jillaroos dominance, with the NRLW set to be a game changer, especially as the premiership-winning Broncos were stacked with Kiwis players.
"The NRL competition has helped us," said Hireme. "I've seen it since we have been in camp. The girls have been a lot better conditioned — they are more match fit coming into this — and they have lived that semi-professional athlete life. They had never experienced that, so even if it was just for two to three months, it has made a big difference and lifts the level of our team."
Ferns five eight Kimiora Nati eptimosises the quantum leap that is possible. The 30-year-old has always been on the fringes of the Ferns, but was immense for the Broncos, with a grand final hat trick and the player of the match award, as her game has gone to another level.
"Kimi has been around for quite a while and has always been a natural athlete," said Hireme. "But there has been other players in those positions and because of her nature and she is quiet she has never really grasped that. But to train against her...you never know what she is doing, she keeps you on your toes and she is at a peak right now. I'm glad she's on our team."