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Tiana Penitani was named player of the Harvey Norman National Championships.

Tiana Penitani had an Olympic dream in the palm of her hands until injury cruelled any chance she had of representing her country on the world's biggest stage at Rio in 2016.

The former Australian rugby sevens star has found her feet again with the help of rugby league and in the space of four months has already made an impact on the code.

If no one was familiar with Penitani prior to the Harvey Norman National Championships, expect to hear much more about the NSW City winger in the next few months.

The 23-year-old was named the best player of the Championships after finishing the tournament with six tries in three games.

But how exactly has she fallen into rugby league's lap?

"I went away from rugby in the middle of 2017 for personal reasons," Penitani told

"I got out ruled out of travelling with the Aussie sevens girls a week before the team left. I'd had an ACL reconstruction before and my knee had some cartilage issues we thought we could manage throughout the games but it just didn't work out.

Tiana Penitani scores for NSW City.
Tiana Penitani scores for NSW City. ©Jason O'Brien/NRL Photos

"I was shattered, it was a bittersweet moment when you've been working towards the Olympics your whole life. I started out in track and field too so to come so close to [the Olympics] then see it slip through your fingers really hurt.

"I made a decision to have 18 months away from the sport after that. I just felt like if your heart isn't in it at 110 per cent it's hard to maintain that. I craved some normality in that sense."

Enter rugby league.

Penitani was encouraged to find her passion for sport again through NSW City fullback Corban McGregor, who plays for the Cronulla Sharks at club level.

Penitani is also engaged to Sharks winger Aaron Gray, so the stars were aligning for the rugby convert to give league a go.

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"Best decision I've made," she said.

"Rugby league is a different game and I'm happy with where I'm at. I'm still very much a student to this game."

Penitani's performances for City are expected to land her a Blues spot on the wing in Andrew Patmore's side for NSW on June 21, while several NRLW clubs were also enquiring about her services in September.

"Coming into this tournament I didn't know what to expect with a lot of big names," Penitani said.

"Everyone wants to strive to achieve things and I'm no different. This year was very much about wanting to get back in the swing of things.

"Getting a little bit more ball I'm playing alongside some of the best in the country. That allows me to do my job as a finisher."

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