Broncos recruit Tallisha Harden.

Harden following in footsteps of idol Preston Campbell

Tallisha Harden has always looked up to rugby league icon Preston Campbell and she is doing a superb job of following in his footsteps.

The 26-year-old forward will line up for Brisbane in the upcoming NRL Holden Women's Premiership having represented Australia in three sports – volleyball, rugby sevens and rugby league.

The Jillaroos representative is a speech pathologist for the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health and a Deadly Choices ambassador who, like her idol, is doing valuable work in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

The way the former Dally M medal winner conducted himself on and off the field has long been an inspiration.   

"I have always loved the way Preston Campbell played. For such a small little fella, he was so deadly," Harden told NRL.com.

"He epitomises what a rugby league player is and played so passionately and so ferociously, representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander every time he went on his field.

"The work he still does now with his Preston Campbell Foundation is amazing and shows the type of person he is to still be giving opportunities to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Gold Coast Titans great Preston Campbell.
Gold Coast Titans great Preston Campbell. ©NRL Photos

"He is such an awesome role model. Every time I see him in the office I always give him a wave or we have a yarn."

Harden has been on a sporting journey that has taken her all over the world.

She attended a renowned volleyball school, McGregor State High, in Brisbane's south and found a pathway to the top through the Queensland Academy of Sport program and represented Queensland Schoolgirls and Australian youth teams.

"I did that for a few years and made my debut for the Australian national team when I was around 19 and played 40-odd games for Australia at international level," she said.

"We did a lot of travelling through Asia. One year I went to Vietnam and Thailand about four times and to Japan, because volleyball is such a global sport.

"I will always be grateful to volleyball because it taught me the core values that are important to every team such as commitment, dedication, hard work and humility."

Around the age of 19 Harden also started playing rugby sevens and was invited to a national camp. She debuted for the Australian Sevens team in Amsterdam in 2013 and was part of the national development program.

In the background was her desire to play rugby league and it was the annual Murri Carnival that proved to be her entry point.

"I'd always wanted to try my hand at it," she said.

"I'd played one game in primary school before I turned 12 and hadn't really touched a rugby league ball for seven years. I played in the Murri Carnival and loved it. Then I got snapped up for the Indigenous All Stars team and I've loved it ever since."

Broncos recruit Tallisha Harden.
Broncos recruit Tallisha Harden. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

Her rise has been meteoric, representing Australia as a Jillaroo in 2015 and then, after a comeback from injury, fulfilling her dream of lining up for Queensland this year.

Now she can't wait to pull on the Broncos jersey in the new competition.

"There have been so many girls who have been chipping away behind the scenes for so many years and so many who have come before us and done the hard work to get us to this point," she said.

"We are all grateful to those particular women who were such warriors for the game. Now we are playing rugby league on a national scale and we are all excited by it."

Harden's work off the field with the Deadly Choices program is also a passion where she works alongside Broncos legend Steve Renouf.

"I went to Darwin with Steve last year during the World Cup and like Preston he is such a lovely bloke who has done so much and accomplished so much for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially in the areas of health and wellbeing," she said.

"To have someone of his calibre with Deadly Choices is awesome."