The task ahead of the Queensland Women's team to regain their once long held crown is not one that any of the players take lightly.
While debutant Sasha Mahuika expects it to be as tough as any game she's played; she still looks to find the simple joy of playing footy in every game, rep games included.
Speaking at the inaugural Harvey Norman Queensland Women's Junior Girls Clinic held in Beenleigh last yesterday (Thursday, July 20), Mahuika remembers participating in clinics just like it.
“I grew up with a ball in my hand. Whether it was union or league, I'd be out there kicking, chasing. These types of events were always special,” she said.
Although schoolgirl rugby league clinics have been held at various times around the state, this was the first time the whole Queensland Women's team had participated in a girls-only clinic.
While skills and team building were highlights of the afternoon for all age groups participating, Mahuika took something else from the clinics she attended and hopes all the attendees at Thursday clinic did too.
Queensland Women's team debutants Sasha Mahuika and Zahara Temara at the Harvey Norman girls-only clinic. Photo: Melissa McMahon
“I remember being told that it was about having fun. It's a game, and if you're not having fun, there's no point,” she said.
“It's the one thing I'd say to all the girls here – you've got to enjoy yourself and your footy; it's not just about winning or losing.”
Although Mahuika – originally from New Zealand – is making her Queensland debut this year, she is not unfamiliar with big matches and winning, having won two SEQ Women’s competitions with the Burleigh Bears side.
"I moved to Australia when I was 15 and after a while, I had some friends that were playing with Burleigh so I thought I'd give it a try.
“They had a good coach in Tahnee Norris and I liked the way the team gelled on and off the field.”
It was at Burleigh that Mahuika met Karina Brown, someone she identifies as her mentor in the Queensland camp.
"She just has a leadership style about her, it makes you want to play for her as much as the team.”
It was therefore an easy choice for Mahuika to follow Brown to Easts Tigers this year as this year’s Queensland skipper was instrumental in establishing the new team.
“The set up there has been really good, much like the Bears and the club in general has welcomed us with open arms.”
This year, the Queensland team face the new challenge of having to wrest back the interstate title from New South Wales after the Blue's narrow victory in 2016.
Whilst the team has spoken about the importance to Queensland and honouring almost two decades of dominance, NSW have selected an impressive team and Mahuika is wary of some of the Blues' big guns.
"A team with players like Sammy Bremner, Corban McGregor, Maddie Studdon and Ruan Sims is a fast and skilled one. We're going to have to be on our game from the beginning,” Mahuika said.
The challenge isn't one that she shies away from, but when her face lights up at the prospect of going up against the Blues' formidable squad, you just know that she has remembered her own golden rule – she's enjoying herself in camp and her footy.
Sasha Mahuika in action teaching girls at the Harvey Norman girls-only clinic. Photo: Melissa McMahon
The Women’s Interstate Challenge match will be played as a double-header with the Round 20 Harvey Norman Women in League match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and Manly Sea Eagles at WIN Stadium, Wollongong.
The match kicks on at 11.45am on Sunday, July 23 and will be broadcast live on FOX Sports from 11.30am.