After the start of this column last week you might be wondering who I am. My name is Kristie Tancevski, and I’m a 20 year old Journalism and International Studies student at the University of Wollongong. I was born and raised in Dapto, a small suburb in the Illawarra, and I love food, sport, animals, makeup and travel. I’m a lifelong Rabbitohs fan, and I’ve played rugby league for two years for the Windang Pelicans.

I never played rugby league as a kid. Maybe it was because I didn’t know girls could play, or maybe I just didn’t want to at the time. But as long as I can remember, I really loved my rugby league.

Sam Burgess’ last home game in 2014, with my dad and my sister

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve rugby league. My dad was a very talented player for Port Kembla first grade as a teenager until a shoulder injury meant he could no longer play. He still loved his rugby league and is a diehard Rabbitohs fan who would always tell me stories of him playing or games he watched as a kid. When I was a kid, South Sydney were having a terrible season almost every year. My family and I always followed them, so one season we all went to a Souths vs Dragons game at Wollongong. The Rabbitohs won, and the streets went crazy. People were running up and down the streets singing, and cars were going nuts up the roads beeping. If I had to pinpoint a moment that I really started to love league, I’d say that’d be it.

Fast forward 5 years, the 2014 Grand Final. Yet again my whole family was there, and my uncle had got my dad and I great seats in the 11th row. It was the moment he’d waited 43 years for, and while he’ll probably deny it, he at least nearly shed a tear. The atmosphere was unforgettable.

The first memory I have of wanting to play league was when I was 15. I loved watching the game and was fascinated by it, but I had no idea where to start. I finally started playing at 18. A friend of mine posted on Facebook that Windang needed more girls and I jumped at the chance. My first season was unforgettable, but there are some parts that I wish weren’t. We had so many talented girls but didn’t win a game. I was unlucky with injuries too. My second game, I fractured the cartilage in my ribcage.

The broken cheekbone a few days later

Halfway through the season, I had a head clash in a hit up that made my face burn and my eyes water. I looked at my sister beside me, and she screamed at me to get off the field. I sat on the bench, and my teammate looked at me and said “Well, you look terrible”. A CT scan and numerous tests later: a fracture so small that it didn’t come up on the scans, and severe tissue damage. While after the event is a bit blurry from the adrenaline rush (and probably a slight concussion) I remember crying in pain after the game but saying to my team mates “hey, now you can call me Sam Burgess”. This probably would’ve turned most people off playing, but the comradery of my teammates and how much I missed the game drove me to stay.

This year has been better, but my journey in rugby league is still slowly improving. I tore a ligament in my ankle earlier in the season, but we’ve actually won a game this year and are slowly improving. It upsets me to lose games or watch the team that I support lose, but I still love the game.

It’s those grand finals and winning games that I play and watch for, and hopefully there’ll be a lot more in the future.

The League Lady