Young Roosters forwards Keilee Joseph and Otesa Pule are set to test themselves at the highest level in the NRLW arena after biding their time through the Club’s Pathways system.
The teenage duo have impressed Head Coach John Strange with their respective performances in the Tarsha Gale Cup and Harvey Norman Women's Premiership in 2021, appropriately highlighted by Pule’s barnstorming run to set up Joseph for the first try of the TG Cup Grand Final.
Both hailing from Queensland, the pair now have their eyes set on making their NRLW debut in the 2021 season, and reminisced on their respective journeys as they aim to don the Red, White and Blue come February 27.
“I made the move down here three years ago when I was turning seventeen to play in the Tarsha Gale side,” Joseph recalled.
“I thought it would be a better opportunity for me down here than up in Brisbane, and I’ve been playing Tarsha Gale for the last two seasons before debuting in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership last year.
Otesa Pule Tarsha Gale Cup 2021 Highlights
“I’m lucky to have family down here, my aunty and uncle who I’m living with now, which is really great while my parents are up in Queensland.
“I wanted to see what it was like [at the Roosters], I ended up loving it and three years later we’re still here. I don’t think I’ll ever look back.”
“I actually got a scholarship to Mabel Park High School, and then I got scouted by the Roosters about two years ago,” Pule explained.
It’s exciting looking to the NRLW but I’m going to have to work hard because it won’t be easy.Otesa Pule Roosters Second Rower
“The move was a bit hard at first but I’ve settled in fine. I’m staying with my aunty at the moment, who is great to have.
“It’s the most challenging football that I’ve ever played. I had to put in a lot of hard work to get to where I am today.”
Joseph and Pule are shining examples of how far the Women’s game has grown in the last decade – with so many stories of established NRLW stars having no visible pathway through their youth, forcing them to move to other codes, the pair are part of the generation who had the opportunity to lace up the boots all throughout their teenage years.
“I’ve actually been playing since I was eleven,” said Joseph.
“At my footy club, Waterford, my parents were really pushing for girls to be able to play from under-13s and up. So we got together and we were able to get a team going. It probably only started with around nine teams, but it was really good to have that.
“I kept playing club footy and then arrived at the Roosters at sixteen. We were lucky in that onset, it was very good.”
“I was born in New Zealand but moved to Queensland in 2011, and soon after I started playing footy,” Pule explained.
“I was about fourteen when I started playing, and for a while, it was tricky having to play with the boys until we hit around fifteen and sixteen, but from there they sorted out a girls’ team.”
Going to the Roosters, I knew I wanted to go through that pathway. It’s a big call but I don’t think I’ll ever want to leave the Club because I’ve been here for so long.Keilee Joseph Roosters Front Rower
A front rower by trade, Joseph will have the opportunity to create history in 2021 by making her debut in the top grade, aiming to become the first player to play through a club’s Tarsha Gale, Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership and NRLW sides.
While the rare feat is a welcomed reminder of how far she has come since her days in the sunshine state, Keilee says she is simply just looking forward to continuing her development and praised the Club’s pathways structure that has guided her throughout.
“Being in development with the side for the last two years has been great. I’ve gotten to grips with everything and the standards that need to be set,” she explained.
“Going to the Roosters, I knew I wanted to go through that pathway. It’s a big call but I don’t think I’ll ever want to leave the Club because I’ve been here for so long.
“The Tarsha Gale and Central Coast pathways are great, they really helped me to ease myself into the grades and now that I’m looking to make the step up to the NRLW, I don’t think I’d be able to do it anywhere else.
“With most of us having already played together, we already have that bond and with ‘Strangey’ as our Head Coach, I just think being able to play our footy will be the best thing for the side.
“I’m just really excited to play alongside all the girls and I can’t wait for the season ahead.”
Her fellow forward – who was a star out on the edge in Blake Cavallaro’s Tarsha Gale side last year – lauded the coaching staff and playing group for their support in her own development as a player, citing the attention to detail and belief that was instilled her to continue her rise to the top.
“Everyone in our squad is so nice and they’re great to talk to and play alongside,” she beamed.
“The coaches are really good as well. Blake [Cavallaro] really helped me to work on my game. Whenever I’d drop the ball, I’d drop my head but he helped me believe in myself and also helped me a lot on my fitness.
“It was pretty awesome [last season]. I felt like we had a great year but it wasn’t the result we wanted. But my game improved more from the year before so it was a year of growth.
“It’s exciting looking to the NRLW but I’m going to have to work hard because it won’t be easy.”