Maroon Gray out to make up for lost time
Queensland back-rower Tazmin Gray is determined to make up for lost time after the birth of her second child ruled her out of playing in the Rugby League World Cup in 2017 and a contract in the women's elite top 40 squad.
Gray, the sister of New Zealand Test winger Jordan Rapana, has the task of going toe-to-toe with NSW star Kezie Apps on Friday night in the Holden women's State of Origin clash at North Sydney Oval.
But if things panned out differently last season, the pair could have been Jillaroos teammates at an international level.
Gray was in the World Cup squad and destined to pull on a green and gold jersey when the 22-year-old realised she was pregnant unexpectedly.
While declaring she wouldn't trade the birth of daughter Kyan for the world, Gray struggled and switched off rugby league last year as her teammates went on to lift women's rugby league's greatest prize.
"The way I found out was a surprise for me, being in the World Cup squad then falling pregnant, it took me out of contention for a spot immediately," Gray told NRL.com.
"I fell into a rough mental state. I've had my downs but am extremely grateful for the journey I have been on and the role footy plays in my life."
Which is why Gray is ready to get back on the paddock and rise back up the pecking order.
But her first steps hit an immediate hurdle.
Her husband Anthony registered her for the Talent ID day last month, as neither were sure what pathway she had to make a return through.
"I didn't really know the way I had to come back, mentally off the field it was real hard to know where I fit in," Gray said.
"I went from going somewhere with footy and being in the Jillaroos squad to straight back to the bottom in the space of 12 months. I had to get my head around where I was placed with teams and coaches.
"So putting me on the list was a start and something I didn't know he did at the time, but then I ended up getting picked for Queensland City so it worked out in the end."
Gray later caught the eye of Queensland coach Jason Hetherington after strong performances at the National Championships.
"Coming back now I feel like I have to work harder for it because the game is growing and the girls are getting better," Gray said.
"For me it was just making sure not so much physically but mentally I was ready to fight for what I wanted and where I wanted to be in the game.
"There's always someone else and they're always looking for someone else. To be back amongst it is even better."
The battle with Apps could determine the result on Friday night but make no mistake that Gray is out to remind Australian selectors of her own ability and guide the Maroons to an Origin victory.
Both Apps and Blues teammate Talesha Quinn will form NSW's second row.
"Those girls are outstanding players don't get me wrong and have done some fantastic things for the game," Gray said.
"But I'm determined to not let them get to me. I am a different player to those girls and am out to just put in a good performance for the team and my family."
Holden Women's State of Origin is ready to kick-off a new era in elite women's sport. Witness the spirit of Origin manifest on the iconic North Sydney Oval on Friday, June 22. Tickets available now!