NRLW trailblazer Simaima Taufa is using the pressure of the next generation and the ever-increasing intensity of the game in a bid to take her attacking game to the next level.
Some would say she’s done it all, representing Australia at the World Cup, New South Wales in Origin and playing in a Grand Final for the Roosters, but the 28-year-old veteran lock said there’s more to come.
With four new teams entering the competition next season, the Parramatta Eels captain knows better than anyone that the competition will be faster and fiercer than ever before when it kicks off on August 20.
Taufa saves the day
“We’ve seen where the game can go, especially with the first season this year, you can see that there’s more skill there and execution in our plays,” Taufa told NRL.com.
“The tackles are getting tougher, the game is getting quicker and we need to be willing to change as the game continues to grow.
"The game is progressing with the pathways that are opening up so girls are starting a lot younger and being a seasoned veteran now, I’ve also got to keep learning and adapting as I go.”
With the likes of Losana Lutu, Cassey Tohi-Hiku, Najvada George and Zali Fay among the young guns set to join the Parramatta squad this year, the Eels skipper said the rookies continue to “evolve” her style of game.
“There’s girls barking at my heels to be where I am so I’ve go to continue to evolve and create something different,” she said.
“I played in the middle for so long and I just used to bash and barge the ball up time and time again.
“But I’ve seen the game evolve over the years and how fast it’s getting, so I’ve got to keep adding in a little niche to my armour and more tools to my toolbox to challenge myself to be better.”
The 2017 Dally M Female Player of the Year said while she still hopes to progress her game her own way, it is her male counterparts where she finds inspiration.
“A lot of my learning comes form watching players like Isaah Yeo and Junior Paulo, those middle players who themselves have evolved with their style of footy with just a little bit more footwork,” she said.
“We do have the saying of same game, our way — and I want to be like those players and see how they’ve evolved but do it my way.
“They’re the players that I watch and I think that it would be cool to one day do something like that so I want to put myself in the position where I will challenge myself to be better and do things my own way but still have the ability to observe and learn from others.”
Approaching her fifth NRLW season, the experienced leader said she also hopes to bridge a relationship between the pioneers of women's rugby league and the future stars of the game.
“I listen to the story from players before us and what they had to give up and the sacrifices they had to make. It gives me a sense of responsibility to carry the younger players in my shoulders and help share what the game was before,” Taufa said.
“We say that we are the gate keepers of the women’s game, we’re here pushing it to where we want it to be.
"We’ve got to continue to share the stories of the past players and never forget them but also now nurture and bring up the next generation of girls so they are confident and can forge their own legacies.”