Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons skipper Ali Brigginshaw will be donning the royal blue of Valleys Diehards next season, with the club formally accepted to take part in the 2021 BHP Premiership.
The reigning NRLW Dally M player of the year will join with another State of Origin representative in Scott Prince.
Prince was named as coach of the new side following on from his stint playing with the club in the Brisbane Rugby League A Grade In Safe Hands competition this past year.
Scott Prince returns to the footy field
Brigginshaw – who will be making the move from Brothers Ipswich, with the club opting to not enter a team in the competition next season – said the chance to reunite with good friend and former coach Prince was an opportunity too good to pass up.
“I want to learn... you always have to learn to be better, you can’t just always settle,” Brigginshaw said.
“Even now, if I am not playing under Princey, I am always calling him (asking) ‘hey, what did I do right, what did I do wrong?’... he is always the person, that point of call that I have.
“On the field, off the field, he is someone that I look up to a lot, so when he said he wants to coach women’s (rugby league) and he wants me to come to Valleys, I was ‘definitely’.”
Match: Stars v Diehards
Round 1 -
Venue: Barlow Park, Cairns
While at Brothers Ipswich, as well as playing, Brigginshaw had a hands-on role behind the scenes, assisting the coach and providing guidance to her fellow players.
With her experience in the game, Brigginshaw will undoubtedly be sharing her knowledge with the new players who sign up to join the team, but she was looking forward to focusing more fully on playing.
“I always like to have a little bit of a say, but I will leave that all up to him, and I think that’s better for me,” Brigginshaw said.
“I do want to go into coaching, but I still have a lot to learn, so even the way he coaches I’ll learn from him in a coaching perspective as well as playing.”
Currently enjoying some well-deserved time away from the field with her family, Brigginshaw’s 2020 season was like no other in her career.
An injury in the BHP Premiership pre-season required surgery and months out of action. However, the COVID-forced cancellation of the competition meant Brigginshaw only missed one game and was back in action during the Holcim Cup with her former club Souths Logan Magpies.
Her time back at the club made her decision to join with Valleys even more difficult, given her past history with the Magpies, where she is a member of their 20th anniversary team.
“I really enjoyed Souths, I really like the people there, and everything they do, but I could not refuse,” Brigginshaw said.
“I spoke to (coach) Rob (Brough) and said ‘I cannot refuse this offer – I love Souths and I am so grateful you took me in’, but Princey is one of my best mates, and Paul Dyer is a guy I look up to a lot, so for me, I just couldn’t say no.”
After featuring in the grand final of the Holcim Cup in September, next came a period marked by sacrifice and success, with Brigginshaw leading the Brisbane Broncos to their third straight NRLW title and helping guide the Maroons to victory in Origin, all while living in an ‘NRL bubble’.
Brigginshaw and Hancock lift shield
“(This year has been) so crazy,” Brigginshaw said.
“I think what happened is, when I was deciding whether to play or not, once I knew I was in, because it was such a big sacrifice, I was all in and I was ready to play my hardest and be the biggest competitor that I could be.
“Because my family were at home, they were missing me... I was thinking I have to make this worth it, so I put my body on the line, I guess to reap the rewards to make it worth it for my family, so that is what I put it down to.”
And to cap off a season marked by achievement, earlier this month, Ipswich City Council approved for a new street to be named in her honour in the suburb of Ripley.
“It is just crazy,” Brigginshaw said.
“It’s kind of like when you are a kid, you’d go around and you’d take a photo in front of your street sign with your name and there was never one for me, ever.
“And now it’s like holy, it’s actually named after me, it’s so weird!”