The things Shenae Ciesiolka, as a girl watching rugby league, could never dream of happening are coming together at an incredible pace.
The Toowoomba-bred star last year had her hometown girls gala day named for her - the Shenae Ciesiolka Rugby League Gala Day, which is on today, and by the end of the year she was making her Jillaroos debut at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
But getting recognised on the street for playing the game she loved was something the Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons centre couldn’t even fathom – until now.
“You walk down the street and you might be somewhere and I’ve had a couple of instances over the past couple of months where people go ‘Oh you’re that girl who plays for the Broncos, you’re Shenae’,” Ciesiolka said.
“It’s pretty awesome to have that recognition for people to actually notice you, because a couple of years ago they wouldn’t. It’s really awesome more people are starting to watch and get involved in the game.”
Ciesiolka, who has worked with the NRL to deliver programs to schools across the Darling Downs, was this week among a star-studded line-up including former Brisbane Broncos teammate Meg Ward, fellow Toowoomba local Jada Ferguson and Maroons coach Tahnee Norris delivering Harvey Norman clinics to schools in Toowoomba, culminating in today’s gala day.
“This will be the second year now so hopefully each year it continues to grow and we get more and more schools involved,” Ciesiolka said.
“It could be made into a competitive thing where the schools bring their best teams and have a practice run for the Karyn Murphy Cup.
“It’s quite new, but I feel honoured and special to have something like this named after me.”
“It was pretty hard for us women as we didn’t have the female role models really to look up to growing up.
“We obviously followed men’s rugby league and a player that I loved was Matty Bowen at the Cowboys and we grew up having our role models as males. It’s pretty awesome now to see young girls growing up and playing the sport can actually have us as role models.
“I come from Toowoomba and achieved at the top level so hopefully that gives some inspiration to young girls at this level at they can continue to play and hopefully one day they pull on a Broncos jersey or Queensland jersey or an Australian jersey.”
The 25-year-old has plenty of NRLW left ahead of her, but she’s already got the bug for development work, eyeing the coaching pathway so she can continue a hands-on role in shaping the future of the game.
“It’s special to see when you tell a girl or anyone when they’re doing a drill and they listen to your feedback and they go out and implement that and you can see they’ve listened and improved so much,” Ciesiolka said.