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AFLW star Walker thrilled to get back to rugby league

Brooke Walker had to stop playing rugby league when she was 10 years old.

Since then, she has gone on to represent Australia in rugby sevens and played for Carlton in the AFLW. But now, Walker has found her way back to rugby league after a spur of the moment off-season decision.

"After the AFLW season finished I was kicking around, looking for something a bit different to do," Walker said.

"When I was younger, I played rugby league so thought I would give it a crack during the off-season and it ended up being a wonderful experience."

Walker decided to try rugby league after noticing that some women she knew were playing footy for the local team, the Werribee Bears.

"It was a bit strange at first, because I am so used to playing AFLW," Walker said.

Brooke Walker in action for Victoria.
Brooke Walker in action for Victoria. ©NRL Photos

"It was actually joyous getting back into footy because I could run without bouncing the ball and I was able to run into people without it being called 'holding the ball' by the referees.

"It felt like I was learning again, having a crack at a different sport and just playing alongside my friends."

After just one game for the Werribee Bears, Walker was given the chance to represent Victoria at the Harvey Norman National Championships earlier this year. On day two of the tournament, she certainly impressed and helped lead Victoria to back-to-back wins.

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"I wasn't sure what to expect, but State Championships was an awesome experience," Walker said.

"I heard it was an intense competition, but gosh it was physical compared to AFLW which is what I am used to.

"When we stepped out on that field against the Gems, I was shocked by how physical and fast the game was."

Another thing that shocked Walker was how she felt the day after National Championships concluded. Despite being involved in elite sport for many years, she had forgotten what it felt like after playing a rugby league game.

"Everything hurt, everything," she said.

"The tournament was from Thursday to Sunday and I can tell you that going to school to teach on the Monday was a bit of a struggle."

Often players can be their own harshest critics, but Walker had a couple of her students watch her compete. They shared their own feedback with Walker when she came back to school.

"I had no idea that the kids had been streaming the games, but they were very ready to give me feedback and comments, which is good because you find that kids are often pretty honest," she said.

"There was positive and negative feedback, some were surprised that I had a step, or at how fast I was, but others were ready to call out that I missed a couple of tackles."

"Most of all though, I think they were really stoked to watch one of the teachers who teaches them a particular sport playing at that level."

While the limited pathways at the time meant Walker couldn't continue to play rugby league growing up, she is thrilled to see how quickly the pathways are developing now and how much talent is spread across the country.

Walker is also a supporter of women having the opportunity to play whatever sport they like so has no qualms about playing so many competing sports. Wanting to be competitive across many sports is a challenge that Walker is all too familiar with.

"I don't think there is any benefit in boxing a person into one sport when there are so many different opportunities for women and girls now," she said.

"It's also been incredible to see the journey for so many female athletes to having limited opportunities, to now being household names.

"The youth of today are just so lucky that they have a clear pathway in almost any sport they want to do; you can now play a sport and follow the pathway through until you are successful which is awesome."

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While Walker has just put pen to paper and signed with Carlton for another two years in the AFLW, she also has one eye on the Telstra Women's Premiership.

"NRLW is something I want to do before I retire from sport," said Walker.

"I don't know when or how, but it is good that the NRLW and AFLW run at different times.

"If I was given an opportunity to play NRLW, I think it is something I would really enjoy and I would definitely look to liaise with Carlton about it."

With three new teams set to join the NRLW this year in the Newcastle Knights, Gold Coast Titans and Parramatta Eels, that opportunity may be closer than Walker thinks.

 

Women’s Origin tickets are on sale via NRL Tickets. Supporters can watch the historic match from just $5 for juniors, $15 for adults and $35 for families