Nakia Davis-Welsh debuted for the Indigenous All Stars when she was 16 years old and she vividly remembers how nervous she was before the game.
But that was four years ago. The once shy girl from Kempsey admits she’s learnt a lot from that first game and is ready to make her mark at her fourth All Stars appearance next month.
“I’m really excited because when we go into camp and we get to see all the girls and be reunited and have a training session together, I’m really looking forward to getting into it,” she told NITV News.
Joining her on the team’s first training camp on the Gold Coast this weekend will be the rest of squad selected from club competition, the Murri carnival, Koori knockout and the Torres Strait.
Indigenous Women’s coach Dean Widders says he’s seen a surge in talent on offer this year.
“There are some fantastic young players coming through and the players we’ve selected have trained hard, are really professional in their approach and are ready to play.”
Playing in competitions across the country, the girls rarely get to spend time together.
“Obviously we don’t always see each other, especially the girls up in Queensland and the girls from Darwin. It’s great when we get together because we just catch up and it’s good, we’re like sisters,” she says.
Davis-Welsh is excited to play alongside one of her idols, Bo de la Cruz, who will bring experience and a touch of star power to the side.
“To be next to some of the girls I’ve looked up to, like Bo de la Cruz, is just so exciting. I never thought I’d be able to do that,” she says.
The women’s Indigenous All Stars will play the women’s World All Stars in a curtain raiser before the men’s match on Friday February 10 in Newcastle.
“It makes me nervous that we play before the men, but it’s good exposure for us. It shows how far we have come and how much the game has grown. There’s a lot more effort put into it,” Davis-Welsh told NITV News.
“Greg’s (Inglis) come in and spoke to us a few times over the year that I’ve been in the camps. It’s good to know the men really support us,” she adds.
Women’s All Stars coach and current head coach of the Kawana Dolphins, Rob Brough named his team to take on the Indigenous Women’s team, with six debutants included.
“We’ve picked a squad with a combination of strength and experience, along with some of the next generation of female stars,” Brough told the NRL.
“It’s fantastic to have such depth amongst women’s rugby league and the team is building nicely ahead of their All Stars title defence against the Indigenous Women’s team,” he explains.
Meet the 2017 Women's Indigenous All Star team
1. Kelsey Parkin (QLD)
2. Suvannah Connors – debut (QLD)
3. Nakia Davis-Welsh (NSW)
4. Bo de la Cruz (QLD)
5. Sarah Field – debut (QLD)
6. Tahlia Hunter – debut (NSW)
7. Kandy Kennedy (NSW)
8. Samartha Leisha – debut (QLD)
9. Briony Livingstone – debut (NSW)
10. Stephanie Mooka – debut (QLD)
11. Caitlin Moran (NSW)
12. Lauren Motlop (NT)
13. Molly O’Connell (QLD)
14. Lavina Phillips (NSW)
15. Amber Pilley (QLD)
16. Rebecca Riley (NSW)
17. Simone Smith (NSW)
18. Tallulah Tillett – debut (QLD)
19. Rebecca Young (NSW)
20. Emily Young – debut (QLD)
Coach: Dean Widders
Women’s All Stars
1. Sam Bremner (NSW)
2. Isabelle Kelly – debut (NSW)
3. Amelia Kuk – debut (QLD)
4. TJ Green – debut (SA)
5. Karina Brown (QLD)
6. Ali Brigginshaw (QLD)
7. Maddie Studdon (NSW)
8. Steph Hancock (QLD)
9. Brittany Breayley (QLD)
10. Eliana Walton (NSW)
11. Tazmin Gray (QLD)
12. Kezie Apps (NSW)
13. Renae Kunst (QLD)
14. Zehara Temara – debut (QLD)
15. Allana Ferguson (NSW)
16. Simone Karpani – debut (SA)
17. Stef Gallagher – debut (QLD)
18. Ruan Sims (NSW)
Coach: Rob Brough