For 27-year-old mother of five Samartha Leisha, Rugby League, is in her blood.
“My dad played Rugby League but I never got to see him play because he passed away when I was two. I want his legacy to live on within me and my children as well,” she told NITV News.
Today the women’s Indigenous All-Star forward stood on stage at Sydney’s NRL headquarters in Moore Park alongside the league's CEO, Todd Greenberg and together launched the NRL’s ‘Power For Change campaign’, released as part of the special round dedicated to recognising and showcasing the perseverance, commitment and now, involvement of women and girls within the code.
For Samartha, it’s been a surprising journey getting this far.
“I definitely didn’t think I’d be here doing this when I first started playing, I didn’t even think I’d make the Indigenous All-Stars team, but I guess I just stayed committed to every game that I played and realised that there were other levels that I could make and it came about that I was good at Rugby League and had the opportunity to be part of today".
Hailing from the Darling Downs city of Toowomba, Samartha, says she has her sights set on representing Australia and playing with the Jillaroos, an aspiration she wants the next generation of Female Rugby League players, like her daughter, to make be able to aspire to.
“I’d like to see that there are those opportunities there and they can and will make it to those high levels, as well as other young children.” she said.
Having kids hasn’t hindered Samartha’s ability to excel at the sport she’s always loved and had some advice for those aspiring women in League.
“I have the passion of rugby League even when I was having kids. Pregnant, I wanted to get on the field and I just wanted to run around but I couldn't. It doesn't matter whether you have children or not on the field and don't let anybody bring you down for having children because you can do whatever you want to do and I guess I've proven that."
Fans have been encouraged to show their support for the round using the #WomenInLeague.