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'Great competitor': Ciesiolka ready to step up for Kelly challenge

Queensland centre Shenae Ciesiolka isn’t one to shy away from a challenge.

It’s why when Tahnee Norris told the Toowoomba product she’d be changing edges for the Maroons this year, she grabbed at the opportunity.

Ciesiolka is set to go head-to-head with NSW star Isabelle Kelly on Friday night with their edge battle one of the many backline clashes set to light up the one-off standalone Origin fixture.

The positional switch will see the 24-year-old line up in the centres alongside Julia Robinson after two years playing Origin on the wing.

Her battle with Kelly began in the NRLW this year when she got the better of the NSW star with a sidestepping effort in round one before Kelly hit back in the semi-final as the Roosters upset the Broncos.

“Issy is a massive competitor, really strong and a great athlete,” Ciesiolka told NRL.com.

“It’s definitely a challenge and one I look forward to. We’ve got to take her time and space away because the more she has of that the more power she can build up.

“There’s a lot of talented girls in the centres, it’s a really competitive spot at the moment and with someone like Robbo (Julia Robinson) playing outside me, we both have experience there.

“Jess and Vani will be really competitive as well on the other side so we’re all in for a big night.”

Ciesiolka is one of several players who have returned to rugby league in recent years after quitting the code following the under 12s when she was younger and exploring other sports.

Shenae Ciesiolka takes on Isabelle Kelly earlier this year in the NRLW.
Shenae Ciesiolka takes on Isabelle Kelly earlier this year in the NRLW. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

From athletics to touch footy and rugby sevens, the aspiring high school teacher filled the void before pathways in league began to open up when the NRLW kicked off in 2018.

“We all grew up watching State of Origin, we’d get our gear on and dress up, sit in front of the TV and scream and shout,” she said.

“It’s special now to have the opportunity to play it, there’s no way I would have ever thought I’d be on the field playing one day when I used to sit and watch it.”

Among the names Ciesiolka crossed paths with in rugby sevens include NSW stars Tiana Penitani, Hannah Southwell and Maroons teammates Evania Pelite and Emily Bass.

Pelite and Bass will make their Origin debut at GIO Stadium.

“I’ve played alongside at least one or more from each NRLW side in the rugby sevens programs so it’s nice to see everyone coming across,” Ciesiolka said.

“The game is developing and is heading in the right direction. I’m stoked for Bassy and can’t wait to see her run out there. Vani is going to be great for us, she’s still learning the game but is an absolute star.”

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