Queensland U18 debut “indescribable” for Polata

Playing in the inaugural Queensland Under 18s Girls clash with New South Wales is just the beginning for 17-year-old China Polata.

The year 12 student at John Paul College at Daisy Hill has only played rugby league for a year, after growing up playing rugby union and rugby sevens.

Now mastering her skills as the fullback at St Brendan’s, Polata said the pride of representing Queensland was “indescribable”.

“Getting picked for this State of Origin game - a double header with our game played before the women’s team - I can’t even explain how that feels,” she said.

“An honour is downplaying it; it’s something indescribable.

“To even be selected to trial was incredible. To then make the training squad was so amazing to be getting recognised.

“Ever since the pathways for the NRLW came in, this is the start of something for the 17 and 18 year olds and even the ones coming up below us.”

The reason Polata had the confidence to veer from her family’s strong rugby union ties was her older brother, Tigris. This week, Tigris gave his little sister all the motivation she needs when she wears the maroon jersey for the first time – becoming an aunt for the first time.

“When I first asked my dad if I could play rugby league, it was a straight-out ‘no’, but after a month of nagging he agreed,” Polata recalled.

“Everything I did through rugby was through my dad. He’s the eldest of 11 and all his 8 brothers played rugby – one of his brothers played in France, England and Tonga, and another played in Hong Kong. I grew up watching what they did.

“I grew up watching rugby union and league, and loved the skill and fitness in league. A girl I played sevens with asked me if I had thought about playing league.

“At the time I was a little bit smaller and I said no way, because I thought I would get snapped.

“It was my brother, Tigris, who encouraged me to play league if that was what I wanted to do. He was my drive from the very beginning.

“As much as I want to go and meet my baby nephew, I have to focus on this first and make him proud, and make my whole family proud, who will all be at home watching together.”

From Tigris’ encouragement came a love for the sport she is now keen to take further.

“The first time I got a taste of rugby league I just loved it and knew from that moment I wanted to stick at it.”

That was only a year ago – and just a year after Polata was representing Queensland in Rugby Sevens.

Being in Camp Maroon with the women’s State of Origin team has only strengthened the crafty fullback’s desire to take her footy further.

“I want to make it to the NRLW by the end of next year. It’s definitely something I’m striving to grab, that’s for sure.”