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Tunza’s heir: Queensland’s new tackling ‘Demon’

When Waterford Demons product and Harvey Norman Queensland Under 19 representative Keilee Joseph tells you she relishes the big hits in defence and aspires to be an aggressive lock forward for the Maroons, it is hard not to think about the toughest tackling machine of any era, Tonie ‘Tunza’ Carroll.

Carroll, who was a ferocious lock for the Maroons and also played his junior football with the Waterford Demons, for many years featured in Rugby League Week magazine’s players poll as the hardest hitter in the game.

In 13 games in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership for the Central Coast Roosters during the past two seasons, Joseph has made 274 tackles at a strike rate of 95 per cent. 

Considering many of those games have been off the interchange bench, it shows her penchant for hard work, and for making that hard work count.

It comes as no surprise that Joseph earned the nickname of ‘The Motivator’ while captain of the Roosters' Tarsha Gale team last year. Her work ethic is clearly second to none. Despite being relatively small for a middle forward, she has a big heart.

Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

Joseph’s defensive clout is not the only quality she brings to the table. This year she has also upped the ante in attack and has five line breaks to her credit in six games, while running for on average more than 90 metres per game while coming off the bench or starting at second row.

“In the second row I am stuck to one edge, which I am not very good at. I prefer lock forward,” Joseph grinned when asked about her favourite position.

“I like to be in the middle getting involved with all the big hits and I do a lot of tackling.

“When you play in the middle it is not about size and how big you are, it is about determination. That drive has come from my whole time playing rugby league where my goal has been to play NRLW, for Queensland and for the Jillaroos.”

Harvey Norman Queensland Under 19s coach Kelvin Wright is just happy Joseph is in his side for the clash with NSW on the Sunshine Coast.

“Keilee has just got a really good attitude,” Wright said.

Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

“She has been in some really good systems down at the Central Coast and obviously getting a development contract last year with the Roosters.

“I know she is not the biggest forward in the world, but she has great tackling technique. She will bring a lot to the middle part of the field.

“The next step for a lot of these players is developing their passing game, depending on what position they want to play, and that will be the case with Keilee.”

Rugby League is in Joseph’s blood and her progress has been on a steady curve since embracing the game as a youth.

Keilee Joseph in the gym. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Keilee Joseph in the gym. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

Later this year she hopes to play NRLW under coach John Strange at the Roosters.

“I started playing when I was 11 at the Waterford Demons and played there until I was 16,” Joseph said.

“I was playing under my dad [Shane Joseph] who was our coach from under 13s to under 16s. We took out three premierships with him. Then I went and played with Redlands before I made my way down to Sydney.

“I have been learning a lot and especially from our coach John Strange. He has helped me so much. I wouldn’t be here without him.

“He is also my Harvey Norman [Women’s Premiership] coach so being under him the last two years has been really good.

“Last year I was on a development contract with the Roosters and hopefully I get  a chance to play NRLW this year. That is one of my dreams, just to play with my idols that I have looked up to like Isabelle Kelly  and Hannah Southwell. I am just lucky to play with them at the Central Coast Roosters now.”

Joseph represented the Queensland Under 18s in 2019 and said that was “a really good experience” for her in representative football.

She said she “can’t wait” to play in the curtain raiser to the State of Origin clash where she won’t be cheering for some of her club idols.

“It is weird because I play with most of the NSW girls down at the Roosters, but I will definitely be cheering for the Queensland girls,” Joseph grinned.