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CAS winger La-Toniya Norris.

Two teenage girls – unknown to each other six weeks ago – became instant teammates for the Combined Affiliate States at the National Championships on the weekend.

Their stories are similar despite the pair living 4000 kilometres from each other.

Together they played against the likes of Jillaroos stars Ali Brigginshaw, Corban McGregor and Elianna Walton over the four-day tournament.

It's the commitment aspiring rugby league players in the bush must make – to travel and take on some of the game's elite in a bid to put their name on the map. No players face a tougher test than those facing the current women's calendar.

While question marks linger over the development of the women's game with player workload questions for some of the country's best at the forefront, for a lot of the players fresh into the game just being in the environment is keeping their goals alive.

"I don't mind about the scores as long as I take something out of it and the team does take away the experience, that's all that matters," CAS centre Cherysh Leaf told, after back-to-back losses that resulted in an aggregate scoreline of 90-0.

CAS centre Cherysh Leaf.
CAS centre Cherysh Leaf. ©NRL Photos

"This tournament is for experience, how I can develop my skills individually and take it back to my club and make a difference there. Playing against NRLW and Jillaroos players, it was so cool."

Leaf spent time living in Karratha, a town that's a 15-hour drive north of Perth and population of 16,000. She's still at school. Her father Morgan Leaf works with troubled youth in indigenous communities.

"My family moved from New Zealand to Sydney and stayed there for a couple of months. Dad ended up getting a job working in Perth and then Karratha," Leaf said.

"It's a small community. There's not much to do there. Everyone knows each other and it's quite like the outback.

"I used to do gymnastics, cheer-leading and netball but when I moved to Karratha I suddenly had a passion for league with all the boys up there.

"I've now made the big move to Perth leaving my parents and siblings for league. Being so far away I couldn't make training every week so making the move to try and make it further was really important for me."

Head to Darwin and you'll find Darwin local La-Toniya Norris, an 18-year-old winger who moved from Cairns as a child to live with her Aunty and picked up rugby league along the way.

Playing against NRLW and Jillaroos players, it was so cool

Aspiring league player Cherysh Leaf

"My brothers and cousins were heaps into rugby league when I lived in Queensland," Norris told

"I was playing touch footy and league tag. I've fallen in love with rugby league since. I don't want to regret not giving this my all. I want to develop myself as the best player I can to get to the highest point.

"It's hard to learn how we all play but after the first game you mix and get more comfortable. It helps for a lot of the girls who can't get to tournaments financially that we can get the same treatment at these carnivals."

CAS finished the tournament running out 10-4 winners over the Australian Defence Force. Leaf and Norris were the try scorers. 

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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