Jessika Elliston had no idea how the Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons team was selected, let alone she was a chance of making the team.
The 21-year-old, who made the switch from rugby sevens to play rugby league for Tweed this year, said she only had one goal when chosen to represent South East Queensland at the Harvey Norman Women’s National Championship at the end of May.
“Not to stuff up,” Elliston said, referring to her goal after what she calls a “shock selection” in the championships.
The second rower was impressive in all her games, earning her an even greater “shock selection”.
“I didn’t actually know until the day before the finals that this championships was to get into the Origin team,” Elliston said.
“I thought they had already picked the Origin team and this was just a competition to play some footy.”
When coach Jason Hetherington called, the young hairdresser was at work and could not believe she was chosen to wear the maroon jersey after playing just seven games of senior rugby league.
“I did ask Jason if he was joking... I thought it was a prank," Elliston said.
One of the youngest in the squad, Elliston is relishing the environment, experience and expertise in the camp on the Gold Coast.
“It is such a welcoming environment, and I’m just soaking up the experience and being surrounded by the girls and the coaches,” Elliston said.
“At the moment I’m just taking everything in that everyone is saying; and learning along the way if this is something I can keep going with.”
Fellow second rower and Queensland and Australian representative Tazmin Gray has already been instrumental in boosting Elliston’s confidence heading into her debut.
“She said a few things to me that really stuck. I don’t have to be her, I don’t have to play how she does. I do things differently to how she would, and I just have to play my own game,” Elliston said.
“Even though we have the same position, we have different roles to play and I just need to play my role.”
When she runs out with her Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons team mates on Friday night, Elliston carries the same goal that saw her make the team in the first place.
“Don’t stuff up. I just have to do my job; make sure I do everything I can for the team,” Elliston said.
“It is so surreal to be playing for Queensland in State of Origin. I’m so appreciative of this opportunity.”
Among the crowd at North Sydney Oval will be Elliston’s partner, younger sister, mother and father.
She paid special tribute to both her parents for helping her achieve something she never thought or knew was possible.
“My dad is a huge rugby union fan and has been involved with union for a long time, so he decided to set up a rugby sevens at a local club when I was younger," Elliston said.
"A few of the girls and I decided to play, and I loved it. Dad has always been such a huge part of me playing sport.
“Mum is not so much the sporty type, but she will always be at my games. She may not know what’s happening, but she will be cheering me on.”
Being in Camp Maroon has already given Elliston a new perspective on what it takes to go from good to great.
“It’s all about doing those extras; that might be doing those extra 50 push ups each night when other girls might not be doing them," Elliston said.
“For young girls dreaming of playing State of Origin, or making rep teams, it’s important to not give up.
“You might not make that team every single time, but you cannot give up. You just need to keep going, keep at it.
“I’ve missed out on rep teams before and I didn’t let it get to me. I promised myself to work hard and come back bigger and better the next year.”
Match: NSW Women v QLD Maroons
Round 1 -
Venue: North Sydney Oval, Sydney
- Nine Network