• "After 8 weeks sitting on the sideline gee it felt good to put the boots back on today and play some footy!" (Instagram / @_simonesmith)Source: Instagram / @_simonesmith
Simone Smith may have represented Australia playing footy, but she loves nothing more than representing her mob.
By
Amelia Gilbert

28 Sep 2017 - 6:33 PM  UPDATED 28 Sep 2017 - 6:33 PM

Simone Smith has already had the year of her life - and it’s only September.

Following her Player of the Match performance for the successful Women’s Indigenous All Stars campaign in February, the five-eighth was selected to make her debut for the Australian Jillaroos in May.

“It was unbelievable to be honest,” Smith said of her first national selection.

“I had to message the coach after I got the call and apologise for not sounding excited enough - I just didn’t know if I was dreaming or not.

“It was such an unreal experience, it’s not every day that you get to represent your country.”

 

 

But it was the Koori Knockout, Australia’s biggest annual rugby league competition, now in its 47th year, where Smith got her first real taste for the game.

As a member of the Dunghutti nation, Simone grew up watching her family play in the Knockout every year, and began playing in the women’s competition herself 6 years ago.

“It’s the time when all the Indigenous people from NSW catch up together - it’s just a great opportunity to have a yarn and watch some footy,”

“It’s the time when all the Indigenous people from NSW catch up together - it’s just a great opportunity to have a yarn and watch some footy”

“Really the only opportunity I got to play league was through the Knockout,” Smith reminisces.

“There weren’t many other opportunities [for girls] like there are now.”

For Smith, who commutes from Port Macquarie to play for the Newcastle Knights throughout the regular league season, the Koori Knockout is a particularly special tournament.

 

 

“I’m really big on my culture and history and I think at the end of the day, it’s more than a game for us - Indigenous people have a strong connection to rugby league.

“To see all the supporters who are really, really passionate about Indigenous cultures and players, I think that’s what makes it really special.

“I’m so happy to be a part of it.”

But the best thing, she insists, is the camaraderie of the tournament.

“It’s the time when all the Indigenous people from NSW catch up together - it’s just a great opportunity to have a yarn and watch some footy,” she says.

Smith will take the field again this weekend for the Dunghutti Jindas, who she thinks have a strong chance at the title.

“One thing I look forward to at the Knockout is identifying new girls who get picked up through the rugby league pathway that we’ve got for the All Stars now.”

“One thing I look forward to at the Knockout is identifying new girls who get picked up through the rugby league pathway that we’ve got for the All Stars now.”

“We’ve definitely got a good team on paper and if we can just all play to our strengths we’ll go well.

“In saying that, there are 24 teams in the women’s comp now so we won’t take it lightly and it’s actually good to see such strong numbers coming through.”

Smith is keen to pass on her learnings from her stint in the national side and to see the emerging talent on display at the Knockout this year.

“The amount of talent amongst the Indigenous community is unreal,” she says.

 

 

“One thing I look forward to at the Knockout is identifying new girls who get picked up through the rugby league pathway that we’ve got for the All Stars now.”

However the Knockout will be bittersweet for Simone - it’s likely to be her last tournament for a while as she contemplates surgery for a torn meniscus and faces missing the upcoming Rugby League World Cup in November.

It’s therefore lucky for Simone that she still gets to put a lot of her league teachings and skills to use as an Aboriginal Health Worker when she’s not playing.

And whilst Smith is quick to credit sporting legends such as Bo De La Cruz and her supportive family as the inspiration for her success, it’s clear that through this position she’s becoming a role model herself - something she’s very grateful for.

“I’m so fortunate to be able to set an example for the younger generation and have a positive impact on the community.”

“I’ve always grown up wanting to inspire others to chase their dreams.”

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter using #KooriKnockout

All the action from the Koori Knockout 2017 will be broadcast online NITV Facebook 29th Sept - 2nd October (Friday to Monday) and on-air on Channel 34 & Foxtel 144 1st- 2nd October (Sunday & Monday). Catch up with all the action via SBS On Demand after the broadcast.