Jillaroo Apps far-travelled for debut
This Sunday afternoon the Jillaroos play New Zealand for the first time since last year's World Cup victory, but six debutants – including back-rower Kezie Apps – will step out onto Wollongong's WIN Stadium to face the unknown.
Centre Annette Brander, halfback Maddie Studdon, hooker Brittany Breayley and Canley Heights duo Simaima Taufa-Kauta and Vanessa Foliaki are pencilled in for their debuts, but none are more far-travelled than Apps who has made a 10-hour round trip from Bega to play for Illawarra team Helensburgh throughout the year.
WATCH: Live stream of Jillaroos v Kiwi Ferns on Sunday, 1.30pm only on NRL.com.
Apps's impending Australian debut has made it all worthwhile after deciding this time last year she wanted to play rugby league again for the first time since she was 11.
The 23-year-old will cap off an amazing season after being named the NSWSRL's Womens Player of the Year, making her regular 750-kilometre round trip all the more worth it.
"I started playing 'League Tag' at home in Bega around two years ago, which is the same rules but instead of tackling you pull the tags off and that's when I realized I wanted to get back into the full on tackling side of things," Apps explains to NRL.com.
"So the closest team for me is Helensburgh which is about a five and half hour drive and I did that every week. My mum mostly drove me but if she couldn't then my dad or partner would.
"I decided this time last year that I wanted to do it so this is my first year. To make the Australian team is overwhelming and crazy."
While it has only taken a year for Apps to achieve a national debut, it was always her main priority when she returned to the rugby league paddock in 2013 despite knowing nothing about her ruthless New Zealand opponents.
"Australia was always a goal for me when I started playing so I don't know how next year is going to compare because I've had a great year this year," Apps said.
"[As for the Kiwis] I watched the World Cup Final from last year and all I know is it's going to be tough. We're definitely keen to back it up from that game – they'll be here ready to fight for a win so it is very important we're switched on."
Despite achieving so much playing for Helensburgh and NSW this year Apps has no immediate plans to move closer to Sydney.
"It is a bit hard. I've just built a house and have a mortgage," Apps said.
With Apps aiming to line up for Australia in the 2017 Womens Rugby League World Cup, the Princes Highway is set to get an even bigger workout for the time being.
The Test between the Jillaroos and the Kiwi Ferns will be live streamed on NRL.com this Sunday.