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From ADF to NRLW: Warrior Peck driven by family connection

Michaela Peck has experienced plenty of heart-warming moments in her life – both on and off the field – but marching alongside her grandfather on Anzac Day in 2018 is up there with the best.

Robert "Norm" Peck was one of 287,000 young Australian men who were sent to compulsory training in the Air Force, Army and Navy between 1951 and 1972 following World War II.

"That's something he is very proud of and I was very proud of, to march beside him," the Warriors NRLW representative says.

For Michaela, she's crafting out her own journey serving the country.

Peck served on the HMAS Adelaide for three years in 2016, travelling around Australia, Jakarta and Singapore, working in the engine bays section of the aircraft-landing ship.

"Dad served for a couple of years, obviously granddad was in the Nashos and my great uncles went to the wars but it wasn't really about following them," Peck tells NRL.com.  

Michaela Peck with her grandfather Robert 'Norm' Peck.
Michaela Peck with her grandfather Robert 'Norm' Peck.

"I wanted to explore and do something different with my life. I didn't know that's what I wanted to get into exactly but once I did I loved it.

"I felt valued and that I was giving back to the community by serving for my country. We'd go around and do lots of training in terms of working with other countries and building relationships.

"There's a purpose behind everything that we did. It's all about attention to detail and you need to have that if you were ever put into a combat situation."

Michaela Peck in action for the ADF at the NRL Women's Championships.
Michaela Peck in action for the ADF at the NRL Women's Championships. ©Jason O'Brien/NRL Photos

After standing still in her driveway last year remembering those who served before her last year with COVID-19 cancelling dawn services, Peck will pay respects to those, including Norm, on Sunday.

A long-time rugby league player in Queensland, Peck took a break from the Australian Defence Force in 2019 to pursue the game further with the NRL Telstra Women's Premiership firmly in her sights.

The crafty hooker has excelled over the past two years with selection in the Australian Prime Minister's XIII later earning her an NRLW debut at the Warriors under Jillaroos coach Brad Donald.

Her impact at the Warriors was quickly felt with the 27-year-old named club person of the year, while she was named in Queensland's 32-player extended squad last week ahead of women's Ampol State of Origin on June 25.

However, Peck's rugby league journey hasn't all been smooth sailing, as profiled by NRL.com in August last year. 

The lack of financial security in the women's game has also now put her in a difficult spot to choose between her love for the game or returning to the ADF again – this time as a medic in the airforce.

Michaela Peck marching on Anzac Day, 2018.
Michaela Peck marching on Anzac Day, 2018.

"I'm getting to the age where I have to make a living so you have to make a choice," Peck said.

"I'm only 27 but the young girls coming through in the game are really starting to shine.

"I'm a reserve at the moment with the ADF but looking to get back in full-time because I miss that – the comradery and the mateship that you gain.

"I guess it's a bit like footy in that you have no idea who someone is but you can sit down with them and chat and you become mates with them for life.

"But I'm really proud of what I've been able to do in the last few years with my footy and will always keep my options open the best I can."