Daughter's brave battle inspires Warriors star Krystal Rota
Anguish. Grief. Sacrifice. Resolve. You don't have to search hard for inspirational personal stories right across the Holden Women's Premiership.
But few will ever know the tenacity that Warriors hooker Krystal Rota has had to summon every day just to get through, well, every day, much less to fulfil her rugby league dreams.
The Kiwi Ferns No.9 is glad for that. She wouldn't wish the rare kidney disorder her daughter Nikayla has suffered since birth on anyone.
Rota puts a brave face on her lot. It's all the 32-year-old can do. Four-year-old Nikayla has nephrotic syndrome, the same condition that All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu suffered and her tiny body is battling not to reject a kidney transplanted from an adult donor.
Mercifully, there haven't been the same lengthy hospital stays of late that have marked Nikayla's life since she started suffering seizures aged just five weeks. But an upcoming, annual biopsy has mum on tenterhooks.
"The last time we did it her kidney was functioning at 57% so it was a bit of a bummer that she got a new one and there was a bit of a mishap in the transplant," Krystal explains.
"So we are due another biopsy and fingers crossed it's still up in that percentage."
With no immune system, Nikayla can't be put in day care so Rota's father and stepmother have to step up so Krystal can train and on game days for the Warriors men where she serves as an analyst for New Zealand's Sky TV.
"It's been extremely hard to be honest," Rota admits. "Just getting to training is a task in itself, constantly trying to organise the kids. My son [10-year-old La-Ricco] as well, when he's got school stuff on, his own sport, and then my daughter's own medication regime is quite strict, so it's doing everything in between the times I can.
"But where there is a will there's a way, I always say that. This is my dream and to follow it, to make ends meet, that's just what you do."
The doggedness is even more admirable when you learn Rota lost her mother Christine to cancer in 2012.
"Definitely," Rota acknowledges when asked if the unimaginable adversity, including nursing her mother through her final days, had made her even more determined on the field.
"When you feel odds against you, you do everything to try and push ahead and make it happen.
"I know Mum would be so proud. I know she'd probably be crying. She was such an emotional person and any little thing I'd achieved in life, she'd get so emotional and cry about it so I can only imagine the tears she'd be shedding right now, seeing where I'm at right now."
Rota's entire family are proud of the Maori mother whose game-high 34 tackles and 66 metres from 10 runs played a pivotal role in the Warriors' historic 10-4 win over the Roosters last Saturday. It earned the tall dummy-half runner a place in the inaugural NRLW team of the week and will ensure she's marked closely when the Dragons, beaten by Brisbane in their opening match, put their season on the line against the Auckland club at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
A week later, Rota's match-up with Brisbane's Jillaroos rake Brittany Breayley, a 29-tackle standout in the Broncos' 30-4 thumping of the Dragons, is also a much anticipated battle. Rota is just grateful she has the opportunity to pursue her sporting love.
"It was kind of at a stage [in New Zealand] where it was dying away to rugby, especially because rugby always had the upper hand financially," she said.
"They were getting paid a long time ago, getting a lot more than women in league so obviously a lot of women were moving across and our game was dying out. Even grassroots level, teams were just pulling the plug because there was nothing really to aim for.
"The NRLW is so cool. I'm excited for everyone, not just myself and the [Warriors] team but for all the girls that get to showcase their talents and their goods to everyone and to hopefully grow this sport for the future."
The future. Kota knows better than most that you can never take tomorrow for granted, which means you make the most of today. The Dragons have been warned.