A five-hour flight from Sydney to Perth was a walk in the park for Sydney Roosters Nines player Courtney Hill following the journey she took to get to Australia.
After an almost 24-hour trip from England to Sydney ended on Monday morning at 8am, Hill trained with her new teammates that afternoon. She is now in Perth preparing for this weekend’s tournament.
“It’s exciting not only to be home, but also to be playing Nines for the first time with a new team,” Hill said.
“Everyone has been really welcoming and I think having a training session at 3pm was the best possible thing because the jet lag was hitting me hard, so to get some movement and stay awake was really good.”
In November last year, Hill came home and had some conversations with a couple of the clubs that compete in the NRLW. Hill stayed in touch with the Roosters and received a call recently asking if she would be interested in playing with the team for the Nines.
While Hill will be a new face for some league fans in Australia, her achievements in England suggest she’ll be worth watching in Perth.
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She was part of the Leeds Rhinos Women’s team that won the 2018 Challenge Cup and the League Leaders Shield in the 2018 Women’s Super League. Last year she was also named the Woman of Steel.
Those achievements made her a hero in Leeds and put her on the radar of a couple of NRLW teams.
Hill, who was born in Queensland and spent a large chunk of her sporting career playing cricket with the Queensland Fire in the Women’s National Cricket League and the Brisbane Heat in the WBBL, is determined to prove her worth in the 13-a-side game.
“Rugby league has filled the hole that cricket left. It has given me a space where I can compete and learn and grow. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be involved in the game,” Hill said.
In the men’s game, player movement between the NRL and Super League has been commonplace in recent decades.
Several former NRL players are competing in the Super League this year including James Maloney, Blake Austin, Aidan Sezer and Shaun Kenny-Dowell.
Then we have the influx of Englishmen into the NRL. James Graham, the Burgess brothers, Josh Hodgson, John Bateman and Elliot Whitehead and most recently, Luke Thompson who will join the Canterbury Bulldogs next year.
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So far, this player movement hasn’t spread to the women’s game, but with players like Hill making themselves available, perhaps it isn’t far away.
Hill has signalled an interest in competing in the NRLW at the end of the year and she isn’t the only one. English international Charlotte Booth has relocated to Brisbane with the hope of achieving the same thing.
No doubt this would only strengthen the women’s game with talent across the world having the opportunity to play in the NRLW which boasts representatives from the Australian Jillaroos and New Zealand Ferns, particularly in an environment where Hill sees growing interest around the women’s game.
“Before I came back to rugby league, I saw the evolution of the women’s game as a spectator,” she said.
“The NRLW and the Super League back home are pushing women’s rugby league. There is an audience for it now and I don’t think either competition will take a backward step.
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“It’s exciting for the next generation coming through … even though I won’t be playing in a few years’ time.”
But at least in the short term, after the Nines and some time in Australia where she will watch some of the upcoming games in the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup, Hill’s plan is to return to northern England.
“I love Leeds. It is home for now”, says Hill.
But Hill is quick to admit that she has many homes, so Aussies can remain hopeful of a potential return and maybe a spot in the NRLW.