Tiana Raftstrand-Smith is ready for a year of "getting used to loving the uncomfortable".
The 19-year-old, who debuted for the Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons in 2021, has moved to Sydney from the Gold Coast to play with Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and grow as a person.
“Mainly I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and learn more about myself, because I was too comfortable on the Gold Coast,” Raftstrand-Smith said.
"Getting used to loving the uncomfortable and learning a bit more about myself.
“It’s really cool, the club is very family-orientated… I know I'm learning a lot about myself being away from my family. I am lucky to have my sisters Skye and Ebony with me to keep me grounded.”
Raftstrand-Smith’s parents remain on the Gold Coast, but call every day to check in.
Before getting stuck into her footy in New South Wales, Raftstrand-Smith - who played for Burleigh Bears in the BMD Premiership and for Gold Coast Titans in the NRLW last year - will run out for the second time for the Māori All Stars this weekend.
“It’s means the world to me, to be playing in this side,” Rafstrand-Smith, who was born in New Zealand and played in the side last year, said.
The young gun is joined by fellow Queenslanders Destiny Brill, Laikha Clarke, Shannon Mato, Zahara Temara and Amy Turner.
“It's nice to see just how many Queenslanders have Maori heritage,” Raftstrand-Smith said.
“We're all over here representing Queensland and our home. It's pretty special.”
It has been a rollercoaster week for Raftstrand-Smith; originally named in the side, she was cut from the extended squad, only to be added again to replace Bulldogs clubmate Kennedy Cherrington, who broke her hand while playing in the opening round of the Harvey Norman Premiership.
“My main goal is to try and stay consistent and play to the best of my abilities because I know there's a lot of purpose behind this game,” Rafstrand-Smith said, adding she was playing for her family and friend Kennedy Cherrington.
“I’m quite fortunate to be here.”
Raftstrand-Smith said being so young, she felt “quite lucky” to be in the mix and wanted to learn as much as she could from the older players in the team and bring that growth back to her club and the Maroons, if she got the opportunity again.
“Obviously my goal is to make the Queensland team again and hopefully be a bit fitter, faster… maintain that spot,” Raftstrand-Smith said.
Watch this space.