After missing the past two matches with injury, North Queensland Cowboys captain Tallisha Harden is looking ahead to next year’s All Stars match in Townsville with a new knee and new lease on life.
“On a personal level, it's really exciting for me because I've missed the last two with injuries, so I am just really excited to be back,” Harden, who had battled ongoing knee issues and underwent surgery earlier this year.
“Obviously, we have a great young group of players who have done really well throughout the NRLW and to have the game here in Townsville is an awesome thing for our community because it is such a strong football community in far North Queensland.
“It is such a passionate community; so for us, it's about inspiring that next generation of Tamika Uptons, Reuben Cotters to want to play our game or just support our game, so it’s very exciting and footy is huge here.”
The Cowboys recently announced the re-signing of their co-captain for the 2024 season, with Harden also excited for the full season of football to come, a far cry from letting thoughts of retirement creep in due to her body feeling less than 100 percent.
However, after working with Cowboys NRLW head of athletic performance Daniel Strickland and receiving some supportive words from friends and former teammates, Harden was convinced she could to run out again for at least one more season.
“I'm really, really excited, I was tossing up the retirement word for a little bit just waiting to see how the body is, but if I just want to give Daniel Strickland huge shout out, he really worked tirelessly over the last eight weeks just to get me in a position where I'm able to trust my body again.
“I’m feeling good … and just with the culture we have got up here at the Cowboys; signing another 12-month contract is something I really wanted to do, but I just needed to see if the body would be okay with it.
“I have got a good group of mates that I talk to like Tarryn Aiken and Chelsea Lenarduzzi who are just really good sounding boards for decisions like that and they were ‘no mate, you have got to keep playing, don’t be silly’, but obviously, you have to trust your own body, you don’t want to go out there and know you can’t do your job.
“But the body is feeling good, life’s good and I can't wait to get out there with the girls, whether that’s big minutes or small minutes; I don’t mind, I’m just keen to be part of it.
Before the NRLW season kicks off in July however, there is still plenty of football to come, including the All Stars game which has become the traditional start of the rugby league season.
An influential and inspirational figure in the Indigenous rugby league community for many years, having also served as captain of the All Stars side on a number of occasions, Harden played for the side the last time All Stars was held in Townsville, but was looking forward to more opportunities to engage with the local community this time around.
Over the years, Harden – who now also works at the Cowboys as an Indigenous Community Engagement Officer – has also seen the All Stars concept continue to grow, and was thankful to see who well embraced it had been by rugby league fans.
“It is so much more than a game, I think Preston Campbell when he started this journey, this All Stars journey, way back in 2010, he'd be so proud of what’s developed,” Harden said.
“Thanks to Preston, thanks to the NRL, we get this amazing annual game where we get to showcase our Indigenous talent, our First Nations and Māori talent, and we also get to go out into community to tell our stories, share our journeys, mix in and be part of the next generation of young people.
“Whether they support footy or play footy or not, it's just really important for us to go out there and connect be present.
“We didn't get to do that last time we were up in Townsville obviously because of COVID, so it's really exciting that we get to do that during All Stars week and we can be out in community mix in be present spend the time to get to know people and connect, so I'm really excited for that.”
Match: Indigenous v Maori
Round 1 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville