When the NRLW competition finished four months ago, Warriors captain and Veronica White Medal winner Georgia Hale's journey in Australia was only just beginning.
Hale was one of five Warriors players who committed to play in the NRLW and travelled to Australia before the competition, quarantining for 14 days an hour north of Sydney.
Along with forward Crystal Tamarua, who is also living in Queensland, the Auckland local was granted permission to remain in Australia despite having nothing but a suitcase full of clothes.
Hale had intended to move to Australia 12 months earlier to reunite with her partner, Titans prop Sam Lisone, before the COVID-19 pandemic threw those plans into disarray.
2020 Veronica White Medallist – Georgia Hale
"I basically sent a few emails to find out if there was any chance I could stay after the NRLW and got the green light once I provided some paperwork," Hale told NRL.com.
"For as long as I've played the game my mind has always been set on being one of the girls who was based in New Zealand paved the way and create opportunities for others.
"We've made some huge progress so I was adamant that I'd never leave but coming over for the NRLW last year and being in my mid-20s, I was keen for another experience.
"It's not just with footy but living away from home and working things out for myself.
"Having Sam here is a bonus too, but if anything, it gave me the push at a time no one else could travel. It was just something different for me to stay."
Taking leave without pay at her job with the Warriors as a community coordinator, where she was also recognised by the NRL to earn the Veronica White Medal last season, Hale has settled into her new surroundings on the Gold Coast.
She'll turn out for the Tweed Seagulls in Queensland's BHP Premiership starting next month, while her father, Laurie, is the Warriors' NRL team manager and is based on the Central Coast.
"The rest of my family are back home but he's not too far away if I need him," Hale said of her father.
"The Warriors have been really understanding that I'm young and want to start a new chapter, and with the men's team over here it's good to touch base with a few staff members.
"I still have a great relationship with the Warriors and don't want to close that door as a player or an employee."
Like many who participated in last year's NRL Telstra Women's Premiership, Hale is eager to hear if the competition will expand in 2021.
"It's hard sometimes as a player but you've just got to sit back and wait but I think extending the competition this year is crucial," she said.
"We've had three years running off the same template, which has been great, but we're all ready for the next step.
"If we had a couple more weeks together at the Warriors last year who knows what we could've done. I felt like we were only just starting to find our feet."
Hale is just as hopeful about the upcoming 2021 World Cup.
The Kiwi Ferns were the only top-tier nation that were able to play an international match last year against a Samoan invitational side.
"Hopefully it goes ahead … as a player we want to be playing as much football at the top level as we can," she said.
"If not, we need something on a smaller scale to look forward to. We haven't played a proper Test since 2019 so I would hope there is something on the calendar."
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