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NRL stars Tom Trbojevic and Kennedy Cherrington have reflected on two very different journeys from club rugby league to the top level at the NRL's 2022 launch.

Trbojevic, along with his brothers, emerged from the Mona Vale Raiders on Sydney's northern beaches to star for Manly and, in the case of Tom and Jake, for NSW and Australia.

Eels NRLW recruit Cherrington is a born and bred western Sydney girl who played her club rugby league in Perth before a journey through netball, rugby, rugby Sevens and an eventual NRLW debut with the Roosters before going on to earn selection for NSW and the Māori All Stars and join the inaugural Eels NRLW side.

"I played from under 6s to under 17s (at Mona Vale)," Trbojevic told NRL.com at a session Willoughby Oval for the annual club rugby league launch.

"So did Ben, so did Jake. It's a lot of time playing footy. The friends you make, the times you had, these kids (the Willoughby Roos juniors) here are going through that now. It's a great part of your life.

"We spent a lot of time down there with our family. It's been awesome for us."

Trbojevic said he couldn't even guess what his life would look like now without rugby league at his years at the Mona Vale Raiders.

Tom Trbojevic with Willougby Roos juniors at the 2022 club rugby league launch.
Tom Trbojevic with Willougby Roos juniors at the 2022 club rugby league launch. ©David Hossack/NRL Photos

"We'd literally be at Newport Oval, deadset from six o'clock in the morning until six o'clock at night just doing what you loved," he said.

"It's an awesome time, no worries in the world, just going out and having fun."

Those were his first and favourite rugby league memories, he added.

"Rocking up to Newport Oval on a Saturday morning where we played and just knowing I had the whole day there to play footy, watch footy, raid the canteen and do what us kids love to do," he said.

"[Rugby league] has turned me into the player I am today and what Mona Vale has done for me has been awesome. Not only footy but it's turned me into the person I am.

"Created great values for me to live by and created great memories and mates I'll have forever. I'll forever be thankful to the Mona Vale Raiders and the grassroots program I went through.

"It's what it's all about, having fun and building friendships, that's what sport is about."

Cherrington, like so many of her contemporaries, had to find other sports to fill the gap once she was no longer allowed to play with the boys after under-12s but says rugby league is in her blood and she was never going to stay away.

"I was born in western Sydney and my dad got a job in the mines over in Western Australia," Cherrington told NRL.com.

"At the time I was playing netball. I'd given league a crack but I didn't see it through because mum and dad were like 'no, netball netball netball'.

"It clashed with junior rugby league in Sydney but we moved to Perth and it was actually on a different day so I played netball on a Saturday and rugby league on a Sunday and that's when my journey began at the Rockingham Coastal Sharks in Perth.

Eels NRLW player Kennedy Cherrington with Willoughby Roos juniors.
Eels NRLW player Kennedy Cherrington with Willoughby Roos juniors. ©David Hossack/NRL Photos

"I was the only girl, my coaches loved me because they were like 'look, a girl having a crack, we love that'.

"I had to stop playing at under-12s which was frustrating because I had to go to league tag and I was like 'no, I'm made for this game'. Unfortunately with the pathways back then there wasn't really anything until I was a woman which I wasn't deemed until I was 17 so you've got five years."

Cherrington's under-12s stint finished with a bang, making a combined state team that travelled to Melbourne and competed against the likes of Payne Haas and Tex Hoy.

"I went back and had a look at the team lists and there was a lot of boys that are playing top level and I was like 'oh, I'm one of them too!'" Cherrington laughed.

"I was the only girl in that comp too. It's just really nice to see I'm a part of the movement that's inspiring younger girls to come through. It's really humbling to be a part of it."

Cherrington took a varied journey back to rugby league, and is relieved young girls such as those at the Willoughby Roos no longer have to take a similar hiatus.

"I played league tag for a bit and it wasn't until high school when I was 14, two years I was just playing whatever I could with an oval shaped footy," Cherrington said.

Eels NRLW player Kennedy Cherrington at the 2022 club rugby league launch.
Eels NRLW player Kennedy Cherrington at the 2022 club rugby league launch. ©David Hossack/NRL Photos

"I was in the Aussie Sevens system, playing school rugby, I ended up in the Aussie youth side there. Then with the Waratahs but I think rugby league has always been my calling and I made my way back at the Roosters a few years ago.

"There's a clear pathway now. I asked the girls earlier 'are you part of your own team or with the boys' and they said they had their own team and their own comp and that's music to my ears and it's only going to take off in the next five years."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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