Shannon Mato is one of the fresh faces in the Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons squad this year, but almost missed the camp altogether after proving a difficult person to get a hold of.
An old phone number in the registration database meant she initially didn't receive the call confirming her place in the squad.
“I didn’t realise I had made the team as they had the wrong phone number,” Mato said.
After finally getting her updated number via Brisbane Broncos and Maroons team physiotherapist Carly Jenner; Mato was officially informed she was set to join the Queensland squad.
Mato has experienced a whirlwind start to her NRLW career, winning a premiership with the Broncos in her debut season before then packing her backs to prepare for more time in a COVID bubble with the Maroons squad.
In a crazy turn of events, Mato was getting ready to go back home once the Broncos end-of-season celebrations had finished up, still unaware that she had been selected in the Queensland squad, only to be informed afterwards by team mates who has seen the squad announcement.
“I didn’t get a message or wasn’t a part of the WhatsApp group (set up for the squad); so I was congratulating the other girls, but luckily someone told me after our ‘mad Monday’ that I’d actually made the squad; otherwise I would have been back home not realising we had a camp on,” Mato said.
Having grown up in Whangarei in New Zealand, Mato made the move across to Australia in December of 2011, where she has since excelled in her sporting career.
Initially, her success came on the rugby union field, having played for the Queensland Reds and Wallaroos in recent years.
Mato has since found a home at the Broncos this season and also featured with West Brisbane Panthers in the Holcim Cup and said the transition from playing union to league did take some getting used too.
“I took a year off league last year when things were getting big for me in union and so coming back this year, running back to the 10 has certainly been different,” Mato said.
Despite her success on the union field, Mato said the chance to fulfil her childhood dream of playing NRL was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down.
“We had nothing on for rugby this year and I have always wanted to play NRL since I was young, and I thought this is the perfect year to come back too.
“I had been playing for a union and league club on different days and then I got a call after the season and I originally thought I was just in the [Broncos] training squad.
“I was like ‘yeah, I’ll take it, this is a dream come true’; I wouldn’t mind just training.
“Then one training session about week out from the competition, they said to expect to play and that’s when I knew I was in the squad.
“I was just really grateful to be a part of it all – like I wasn’t expecting too much with it being my first year and winning the premiership was like a dream come true, I have no words for it, it was literally like something I could never have imagined.
“Even though I have played at rep level for union, it was just a different feeling as I think it was more of childhood dream for me to achieve that,” Mato said.
As one of the nine new faces around the Queensland camp this year, Mato said she was grateful to be able to learn off the likes of Dally M Female player of the year Ali Brigginshaw.
“What I’ve learnt so far is adapting to every situation that is thrown at us and I’ve definitely learnt a lot about patience and backing your strengths and learning,” Mato said.
“Ali is definitely a great model and I’m just really privileged to have really experienced players who have been here for years that are willing to teach the younger people and they’ve been really welcoming.
“It’s definitely a great environment that I’m a part of.”