Trailblazing Victorian eyeing World Cup
Oneata Schwalger is leaving no stone unturned in her bid to make the Jillaroos World Cup team.
From honing her contact skills by training with male players, to travelling from Melbourne to Sydney to play with the Cronulla Sharks women's team, the prop's dedication is an inspiration for rugby league players everywhere.
Schwalger was the sole Victorian picked in the Jillaroos train-on squad this week. She only took up rugby league in 2015 after years playing rugby union at international level with the Wallaroos.
In between playing league and union in Melbourne, she started training with men's rugby teams to keep up her contact skills. She feels it keeps her motivated and sharpens her skills.
"Training against guys – even with rugby union teams – pushes me," she says.
"I get smashed, but when up against girls, I smash them."
Schwalger's aggressive and hard-running style was rewarded with Wallaroos selection in the 2014 World Cup, and later moved to Victoria and got involved in rugby league.
She played in the 2016 Combined Affiliated States competition and was named Player of the Tournament. More accolades followed, with selection in the All Stars team later that year.
Playing in Victoria meant she is out of sight and potentially out of mind of the selectors, but she was ecstatic when told of her elevation to the wider Australian training squad.
"The opportunities outside New South Wales and Queensland are opening up – it's awesome," she said.
"I didn’t expect to go up this year [with the Jillaroos], as most of the squad gets picked from those two states. There is a chance for all those girls who are here [in Victoria]."
Schwalger knows she is up against some outstanding players from New South Wales and Queensland, but Jillaroos coach Brad Donald told her she's got every opportunity to make the World Cup.
There's another big motivating factor in her drive for World Cup selection: she wants to be the first dual international in her family.
Schwalger has an uncle who captained the Samoan rugby union team and her eldest brother has played for the All Blacks. It's fair to say her family has more Test caps than most.
Even though rugby league in Victoria has limited resources compared to the northern states, Schwalger is excited by the growth of the game down south.
"I want to be part of that growth," she said.
"I'm very passionate about seeing girls out of those two dominant states [getting selected].
"There's so much talent here in Victoria."