Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons newbie Natassja Purontakanen is all too aware of the rollercoaster that is professional sport.
When Purontakanen heard the dreaded ‘pop’ from her knee barely five minutes into her first season of rugby league last year, she already knew about the strenuous road to recovery that lay ahead.
Having ruptured her ACL in the same knee for the second time, the thought of one day representing her state on biggest stage was the furthest thing from her mind.
Instead, she knuckled down to focus on getting her body right in an aim to get back out onto the field as soon as possible.
After months of gruelling rehabilitation, she’s now counting down the days before she runs out for her State of Origin debut against the New South Wales Blues at Sunshine Coast Stadium on June 25.
Match: QLD Maroons v NSW Women
Round 1 -
Venue: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast
Her Maroons selection caps off a remarkable season for the former Queensland Reds representative, having starred in the second row for the Valleys Diehards during this year’s BHP premiership season, where they were narrowly beaten by the Burleigh Bears 24-20 in the grand final.
Purontakanen credited the support of her fiancée Meg Ward, who also played alongside her at the Valleys this year, as a key factor behind her rapid rise since making the switch from rugby union to league.
“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster to be honest, I feel like sometimes I can’t really believe it, but I had a really good support team around me and I certainly wouldn’t be here without them,” Purontakanen said.
“Meg was a really good support system for me as well and I’ve had really good teammates around me to help me develop and grow and I’m really proud of where I am right now and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
While the ever-competitive couple of Purontakanen and Ward won’t be able to run out alongside each other next Friday, with Ward unavailable due to injury, Purontakanen said Ward’s experience at Origin level had been a huge help in the lead up to the game.
“Meg’s really just said to take it all in and I’m here to learn and to grow as a player and a person,” Purontakanen said.
“She said 'you know what you’re doing so just go out there and do it and don’t put too much pressure on yourself, just take it all in and be with the girls and take in the experience'.”
Purontakanen entered a 10-day preparation camp at Mooloolaba on Tuesday with the rest of the Maroons squad and said the camp had given her a chance to bond with her new teammates as well as stay focused for next week’s game.
“The training has been great, I think the bonds that the girls have made will carry on into the game and it’s been really fun to get to know the girls that I hadn’t met or didn’t know quite so well,” Purontakanen said.
“We’ve also had some really good training sessions so we’re looking really sharp out there and I’m looking forward to see how we go in the game next week.”