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'Aspire to inspire': Rookie's busy schedule isn't Bent out of shape

Shaylee Bent's Instagram biography reads: "I aspire to inspire" – and the 19-year-old Dragons NRLW rookie is doing exactly so as she mixes work, study and football.

Lining up as St George Illawarra's right second-rower, Bent has forced fans to sit up and take notice over the opening two rounds.

And her strong form is especially noteworthy given she works three days a week as a family history researcher at Link-Up NSW while studying for a Bachelor of Education on a further two days.

To boot, she makes the almost two-hour journey from western Sydney to Wollongong to train three times a week and somehow crams in additional gym sessions.

"I want to be a person that people can look up to like a role model," Bent told NRL.com.

"Because I'm playing football and I'm also studying and I'm working, [it shows that] anything's possible. Even if we have so many commitments, we can always put them aside and do extra things like playing football."

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A University of Western Sydney student, Bent does four two-week "blocks" on campus per year but is always on the go with assignments in between.

"It was really overwhelming, especially with football this season," Bent said, adding she had to cut back to part-time employment to fit everything in.

"I just finished school last year so it was a big stepping stone for me."

Having played touch football and OzTag growing up in Glenmore Park, Bent first tried rugby league as a 15-year-old.

"One of my friends was starting a rugby league team at Glenmore Park Brumbies and they convinced me to have a go," Bent said.

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"At the start my dad didn't want me playing because he thought it was a men's sport. But then he came and watched it and he's loved it ever since."

A natural talent, Bent had stints with the Eels and Wests Tigers in the under-18s Tarsha Gale Cup under her father's coaching before joining Mounties in the NSWRL Harvey Norman Women's Premiership last year as a centre.

Her performances caught the eye of Dragons coach Daniel Lacey, who would have thrust Bent straight into the NRLW cauldron had it not been for age restrictions.

This season, Lacey chose Bent to play in the back-row - a role she'd only previously assumed for City in the National Championships in May after being called up through an injury.

"I was really nervous but I love contact. Being able to be in contact more and get the ball more has been a massive thing for me," Bent said.

"I would play anywhere – if they told me to play front-row, I would. I'm privileged to even be in the side."

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If Bent ever needs any advice, she has the perfect edge forward mentor in captain Kezie Apps.

"Having [Apps] through my journey at the Dragons has been so pleasing," Bent said.

"Being able to reassure myself with someone that has so much experience has definitely helped me."

Bent's efforts have certainly impressed Jillaroos mainstay Apps.

"She's amazing. She's only so young and she's just so strong and reads the game and runs the lines really well," Apps told NRL.com.

"I can't wait to see what she can do in years to come. I was talking to her, she hasn't really been on a proper training schedule or training plan.

"God, it just scares me to think if she actually does the proper training around all that. She's going to be unstoppable."

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Bent hasn't quite processed her steep rise yet. After representing the Indigenous All-Stars to start the year, she could scarcely believe she featured at the National Championships.

The bright teenager was stunned again after being selected as NSW's 18th player in June.

And she could soon add an NRLW grand final to her list of achievements, with the Dragons all but assured of making the decider if they beat the Roosters in Sunday's standalone clash at Leichhardt Oval.

"We have to work together, we have to have that urgency as a team. I'm excited to go out with the girls and show everyone what we have," Bent said.

Bent will only ramp up her efforts to inspire in 2020 by coaching the Glenmore Park girls under-14s team.

Her reasons for adding to an already frenetic schedule?

"Developing the younger generations and giving back to my community."