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Jillaroos back-rower Kezie Apps is crunched by the Kiwi Ferns defence in the 2015 Auckland Nines.

She has been rubbing shoulders with rugby league royalty since she was a young girl growing up on the family farm in Bega but Kezie Apps says she still can't believe that she is now regularly among their ranks.

Inspired by the Jillaroos' World Cup win in 2013, Apps signed up to play with Helensburgh in the Illawarra competition in 2014 and in the space of one season was named the Illawarra Women's Player of the Year, NSW Women's Player of the Year and selected to make her debut for Australia in the Test against the Kiwi Ferns in Wollongong in October.

She has been a fixture in the back-row for the Jillaroos ever since and goes into Saturday night's game for the Women's All Stars against the Indigenous Women's All Stars with fond memories of a two-try performance that saw her named player of the match in her All Stars debut last year.

Brought up with a rugby league mad father and two older brothers who headed to Sydney to play football (Deon played two games for South Sydney in 2011), Apps played between the ages of eight and 11 before having to give it away due to age restrictions girls have playing with boys.

In the two years since she returned she has talked footy with the likes of Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis, Jarryd Hayne, Sonny Bill Williams, Laurie Daley and Mal Meninga yet it is a former Eels great who remains her favourite.

"I got to meet Nathan Hindmarsh at the NSW presentation night in 2014," Apps said. "When I was younger because they had a dairy farm, we purchased cattle off them when I was 11 or 12 and his brother Ian came to our farm.

"I thought Nathan was going to but he didn't and I really wanted to bring it up but I was too nervous.

"I still can't believe that I even made it into the Australian side. I still have to reassure myself that this is happening and that I have made it. It's hard to believe that you have actually made it this far.

"On the weekend in Auckland I was just standing there and I hear this, 'Kezie' and I turn around and it was Benny Barba. I've been stopped by Matt Cooper at a clinic he came down to in Bega and he had a chat to me. It's crazy."

The smile says everything 😁🙈💛💚 #lovemyfamily #lovemyfooty #lovemycountry #soproud

A photo posted by Kezie Apps ✌️ (@kezieapps04) on

Watch Apps play on the right edge for even a few minutes and it is obvious that she has natural footballing instincts that can't be taught to men or women.

She leaves defenders grasping at thin air by the way she cuts back on their inside shoulders, a skill honed while playing League Tag in Bega.

"After playing a few years of league tag, you think you're in a hole and then you get tagged and I thought, 'If this was actually tackle they would have to try and stop me," Apps says.

"I love running lines. I think it's just something that I might have learnt when I was younger and just built on it.

"I think I was picked for the lines that I do run. That was one thing that I think stood out to them as well.

"I try and drag my girl as wide as I can and then at the last minute cut back in and hit behind.

"I've just always done it, I think I'm naturally like that, I love it."

Fellow Jillaroo and Women's All Stars teammate Ruan Sims also believes that Apps has a natural affinity for the game that has proved invaluable for the NSW and Australian teams in the past two years.

"She adds athleticism, strength and youth to the team and I think she is just a natural footballer which is what makes you a really great player," said Sims.

"You can work as hard as you want but if you have got that natural talent and work ethic then you are going to be a great player and she adds a lot of value to the Jillaroos and All Stars."

With a full-time job at the Bega Cheese factory doing data entry – not to mention the starring role her grandad plays in the Bega Cheese TV commercial – Apps says she dreams of the day when women's rugby league can take its place alongside soccer and cricket as even a semi-professional national competition.

"I was very lucky that when I came in it was the first time they actually got paid to play so I consider myself very lucky in that respect," she says.

"So much has changed since I first started because we're getting more media, televised games and it's exciting to see where it's going but I don't know how long it will be.

"Eventually it will happen."


Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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