Maori Ferns playmaker Raecene McGregor insists she won't be kicking stones despite being one of the few players in the All Stars clash on Saturday without an NRLW deal.
McGregor will pull on the Maori Ferns jersey for the third time on Saturday night but unlike most of her teammates, the 24-year-old won't back up and play in the NRL Telstra Women's Premiership a fortnight later.
The two-time premiership winner has been unable to land a last-minute deal with any of the six NRLW clubs in unique circumstances with the competition's delay.
McGregor was due to miss last year's competition after undergoing a shoulder reconstruction in May with her club Brisbane choosing not to re-sign her due to the new points cap system in place.
However, the delay in the season's start has given McGregor enough time to recover, but not enough time to convince an NRLW club she's physically ready for the season ahead.
"I understand that teams were selected last year so to be available now, of course it's disappointing but it is what it is," McGregor told NRL.com.
"I probably haven't pushed that hard to play. I wanted to stay in Sydney so didn't reach out to too many clubs. Parramatta and the Roosters had selected their players already so I understood but also let them know I was available.
"The hardest part is that everyone keeps saying I should be playing. It's definitely been tough to see all the posts of people training but in the end, that happens with injuries."
Match Highlights: Indigenous Women v Maori Women
Maori Ferns coach Keith Hanley said he was surprised McGregor, who returned to full-contact training in January – the same time NRLW clubs hit the training paddock – remains unsigned.
"I know she's in fantastic shape and is very keen to prove she's a capable player," he said.
"She's tremendous, her natural instinct is to run first which isn't a common trait, even in the men's game."
McGregor's impact at the representative level shouldn't be understated.
She was player of the match in last year's Harvey Norman All Stars clash with two tries and was named player of the tournament for New Zealand at the World Cup 9s in 2019.
It was in the corresponding All Stars clash that McGregor injured her shoulder during a post-try celebration gone wrong.
"There will be no celebrations this year, I will be meeting everyone at the halfway line," McGregor joked.
"I'm just looking forward to getting back on the field. It's been a while since I've played and been in that team environment.
"I just want to train hard after that, stick with it and have a good season with North Sydney before hopefully being picked up again by an NRLW side."
Maori women's haka
McGregor was particularly excited to work with promising five-eighth Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly in camp this week after watching her make her Kiwi Ferns debut in 2020.
With a World Cup scheduled for November, McGregor and Stephens-Daly are among a group of halves for the Kiwi Ferns to choose from at the end of the year.
"We finally have some depth there," she said.
"We probably haven't had that the last few years so it's really good to see more girls coming through leading into the World Cup."
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