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Laing ‘never stopped believing’ after ACL setback

When Harvey Norman Queensland Under 19 prop Ebony Laing suffered an ACL injury in 2019 she never once stopped believing she would get back playing the game she loves.

Laing’s selection in the Queensland side to play New South Wales on Friday at Sunshine Coast Stadium is a tribute to her incredible drive and mental toughness as most of her rehab was done during the 2020 season where the COVID-19 crisis wreaked havoc on rugby league.

The teenager – who remarkably has been a success in the front-row and centre positions for the Burleigh Bears in both the Harvey Norman Under 19s and BHP Premiership sides - is a member of the Gold Coast Titans JTS Women’s Academy and got to test her knee in January against Newcastle Knights in an under 19s game.

“I never stopped believing that I would get back on the field. I just kept pushing,” Laing said.

Laing at training. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Laing at training. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

“I did my ACL at the end of 2019 and the whole of 2020 I was recovering and doing rehab.  There is no good time to have an injury like that but I’d probably say that was the best time to do it, when there was not much footy being played.

“My first game back was this year was with the Titans against the Newcastle Knights. I was nervous but I knew my knee was up to full strength because I had done the work.

“The support of my family and Tahnee Norris at the Burleigh Bears was huge.”

Laing was a member of the Burleigh side that won the BHP Premiership this year and her coach Tahnee Norris, also the Queensland Maroons coach, got to see first-hand her great strength of character to return from injury.

“Full credit to her. There are kids coming through who pick up those injuries early on and some walk away from the game, but Ebony just put her head down," Norris said.

Laining training hard. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Laining training hard. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

“She worked really hard to come back from her ACL to even play league again. It was great to see her do that at such a young age.

“Ebony has had the full support from the Burleigh Bears behind her and she put her hand up to come to opens training in the pre-season to do her rehab.

“I thought she played a fantastic role for us in the grand final. It just shows her dedication has paid off with her now getting picked in the Under 19 team.”

Harvey Norman Queensland Under 19s coach Kelvin Wright said he would play the versatile Laing in the forwards against NSW.

“Ebony played in the front-row in the under 19 competition and that is predominantly where she plays when she is playing in her own age group, through the middle of the field,” Wright said.

“Obviously she is a very talented player with the footwork and ball skills to play out on an edge as well, whether that be in the second-row or centre.

“I thought it was a really good introduction for her into the BHP Premiership to play out wide in the centres and I thought she handled herself really well.”

In the gym. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
In the gym. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

Norris was also impressed by Laing’s versatility.

“Ebony is quite quick for a young player, but I do think her future is in the forwards,” Norris said.

“She did a great job for us in the BHP Premiership side to fill in at centre, which is such a tough position.”

Laing grew up playing netball and started playing rugby sevens at school before she was invited to try out for the Burleigh Bears.

With the NRLW set to expand to six teams, including the Titans, she has her heart set on continuing to rise through the league ranks and following in the footsteps of two Burleigh and Maroons legends.

“Now I just love rugby league and I will continue to play it,” Laing  said.

“When it was announced the Titans were going to have an NRLW team it was so exciting. We are all talking about it. That is definitely one of my goals, to get into an NRLW team.

“My inspirations have been Zahara [Temara] and Chelsea [Lenarduzzi]. It is a real privilege to play beside them in the BHP Premiership. They are both so encouraging and I have looked up to how they play the game.

“It was good to play with girls at such a high level. I loved every second of it.”

In camp. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
In camp. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
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