Talesha Quinn’s journey to the World Cup

Ever since Talesha Quinn played in a City versus Country game at 16 years old, all she has wanted to do since is play rugby league.

She almost quit her job with the Australian Army to make it happen.

And now at 28, she’s well on her way to living and breathing the dream.

On Saturday the former Middleton Public School and Parkes High student was among 24 women named in Australia’s women's national rugby league team, the Jillaroos, who will head to the 2017 Women’s Rugby League World Cup in November.

“I still get goosebumps, it’s so surreal,” Quinn said.

“Not many people get to play for Australia, let alone play in a World Cup.”

Quinn’s journey has been an interesting one, with the most significant moments of her footy career occurring within the last 11 months.

During her teen years in Parkes, Quinn could only play touch football as no women’s rugby league or league tag competitions existed in town.

After finishing high school in 2007, Quinn began her studies at Wollongong University in 2008, moving to Berkeley.

It was here that she was given the taste of rugby league again when she spotted a group of women playing on a field next door to her.

“I played for the Berkeley Eagles in 2011, I captained the side in 2012 and then represented the Illawarra in the Sydney comp and was selected in the NSW team (in 2012),” Quinn said.

She joined the army in 2012, where she was posted to Townsville for her first four years – during which she was selected for the Australian All Stars team in 2013.

“Townsville had a strong rugby league competition...and I was peaking with my footy,” Quinn said.

The chance to trial for the Queensland team in the Interstate Cup between NSW and Queensland arose but due to work commitments, Quinn was unable to make it.

“I was kind of devastated but obviously I’m a NSW girl so technically I didn’t want to play for Queensland,” she laughed. 

But the missed opportunity – and watching NSW beat Queensland on TV last year – triggered something in Quinn and when she heard the Cronulla Sharks were holding team trials in November last year, she had made up her mind.

“I thought ‘I want to play rugby league, this is what I’m doing’...I was going to leave the army,” she said.

“But my boss wouldn’t let me, my boss is a major footy head and he pushed for me to apply for an elite sports program through the army, which gives you a special posting and allows you time off to train and go away to play.”

Quinn said without the help of Regimental Sergeant Major Stephen Schuman, she wouldn’t be where she is today.

She relied heavily on that Sharks contract to gain entry into the sports program.

Quinn moved to Sydney and began playing in the nine-a-side competition with Cronulla.

On July 10 this year, she was named in the NSW Women's Rugby League team that played Queensland in the Interstate Cup at WIN Stadium in Wollongong on July 23. 

“I was super intimidated, I was playing with the best players in Australia, I was just focusing on not screwing up!” Quinn said.

“It was bloody hard out there, we ended up winning by a lot (22-6)...It was the first time NSW won on home soil, we said to each other ‘we technically just made history’.”

Quinn also played in the Defence Force Rugby League World Cup, captaining her side, in July where they played and won three games against New Zealand in Sydney.

Quinn was selected for the 40-player Jillaroos train-on squad that saw the second rower debut for Australia in the historic test against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby on September 23, which they won 42-4.

“This trial was really important for me because it was going to make or break me,” she said.

“I defended the whole game, I was always tackling...the coach spoke to me and said at that point I was just outside the Jillaroos squad.

“I was so nervous, I almost passed out...but I played really well...and I scored a try on my debut!”

Quinn said she’s always pursued her goals in steps, first aiming to make the starting side for Cronulla, then wanted to play every game.

“My goal was just to make the NSW team and feel what the girls felt the year before,” she said.

“When the World Cup came up, I thought ‘you know what I’m going to give it a crack’.

“And I feel like I have so much more to give too.”

The Jillaroos go into camp on November 6, kicking off their World Cup campaign against Cook Islands on November 16 in Sydney.

They will also meet Canada and England before finals commence in late November.