Wanganui-raised Akosita Tutolu Kuruyabaki was humbled by her selection to the New Zealand women's rugby league team at the weekend.
The Fijian-born 22-year-old was named in the Kiwi Ferns side following the national competition in Manurewa in Auckland over Queen's Birthday where she was representing the Central Vipers.
Kuruyabaki was surprised by her selection given it is just her first season playing rugby league.
The Kuruyabaki name is synonymous with rugby union in Wanganui with her five brothers and one sister playing the game at various levels in recent years.
Her other sister, Kelera, is a top netballer and a member of the current premier champs Phillips Electrical Wanganui High School.
While Kuruyabaki grew up in Waverley and Wanganui, she is now in her first year at Massey University studying educational psychology.
She is in her first season with the Linton Cobras, who top the table in the Manawatu rugby league competition.
"I was totally surprised to be named in the national team," Kuruyabaki said yesterday.
"I play for the Linton Cobras in my first year playing rugby league. I've played rugby all my life and I'm still learning about league. I got selected to play for the Central Vipers at the nationals in Auckland at the weekend. We had to play five games in two days, so it was pretty tough," she said.
At the national prizegiving selectors first named a squad of 20, of which Kuruyabaki was one, and then named a wider squad of 30 to head to training camps in preparation to tackle the world champions Australia in November.
"The selection was very humbling given it's my first year playing the game.
"I still have a lot to learn and come to respect the game, but I'm really looking forward to it.
"My family are all into rugby union and that's what I grew up with. I was a prop mainly in union, but I'm a second rower in league and enjoying it," Kuruyabaki said.
The Kiwi Ferns are ranked second in the world by the Rugby League International Federation behind current World Cup holders Australia.
The Kiwi Ferns won the World Cup in 2000, 2005 and 2008 before losing it to Australia in 2012.