Jillaroo's battle to stay in touch with league
Few understand better the plight that the downturn of the mining industry has had on rugby league in central Queensland than Jillaroo Kody House.
Gladstone born and bred, House is one of many who has had to look elsewhere for employment this year, spending three weeks of every month driving a massive dump truck for a mining company in Gove in the Northern Territory.
On her one week off a month she returns to play for the Calliope Roosters in the Rockhampton Women's Rugby League competition that boasts three Rockhampton teams and three from Gladstone and next month will spend her only downtime in camp with the Queensland women's team.
House and fellow Jillaroo Chelsea Baker shared the stage with the Queensland Maroons at the annual annual Fan Day in Gladstone on Tuesday where thousands of people lined the streets for a parade and Marley Brown Oval was overtaken by schoolchildren who could be heard exclaiming, "There's Billy Slater! There's Greg Inglis!" in delighted disbelief.
For House, it did the soul good to see so many people – young and old – engaged in rugby league in Gladstone during such a difficult period for the city that is either boom or bust depending on mining fluctuations.
"There's not much work here in 'Gladdy' so I've had to go elsewhere," House told NRL.com.
"I've got a good opportunity to make some money up there which sucks because I had to give up local footy but that doesn't pay.
"All up here and in Mackay as well in the mines, there's just not much work here at the moment so there have been a lot of people leave. It's pretty bad at the moment.
"I'm based here and born and bred in Gladdy and I flew in last night just so that I could come down to help out with everything and give them a hand.
"On my week off I play locally – I've got a game this weekend in 'Rocky' – so I pretty much only get to play once a month at this stage."
Having been drafted into the Jillaroos squad at the end of 2015 it has been a tough initiation for House who starred at the Auckland Nines before missing the All Stars game with a hamstring injury and then the Test against New Zealand due to a fractured foot.
She has been named in the Queensland squad to play New South Wales on the Gold Coast on July 23 and has been encouraged by the growth of the game over the past three years.
House only started playing rugby league three years ago when Gladstone got their first women's team and said the expansion of the women's game has been a bright point for rugby league in the region.
"There is just such a big league base in Gladdy," she said. "We don't really have much in Gladstone but league here is awesome. We've got three women's teams, five or six clubs and there are just so many juniors.
"Everyone just lives and breathes footy around here and there are so many young girls I've seen here today.
"We've got three Gladstone teams this year, last year we had two and the year before that we had one so in three years we've got two whole new teams and we've just joined up with the Rocky comp and they've got two Rocky teams and a Woorabinda team.
"We used to be in the 'Bundy' (Bundaberg) comp so we'd have to travel three, four or five hours all the time so it's good that we're only an hour down the road now.
"I reckon we'll get four [Gladstone teams] next year too, it's just getting bigger and bigger.
"And I think having me and Chelsea here it's just getting bigger and bigger.
"There are a lot of young girls that are getting into it now too which is great.
"Having that small town background, everyone knows who I am, people were asking for photos before so it's awesome.
"[The exposure of the Jillaroos] is way bigger than what I expected that's for sure, especially as everyone in the town knows who you are."