It’s not often that after playing the game you love for ten years, you can make it at the highest level for the first time, however this isn't the case for Redfern All Blacks star and now Jillaroos player, Lavina Phillips.
Lavina Phillips first began playing Rugby League ten years ago and has risen astronomically during her short time playing the game but after few near misses and extremely hard work, Phillips has been rewarded with a spot in the Jillaroos squad for the 2017 Women’s Rugby League World Cup.
“It was amazing, I’ve been playing rugby league for almost a decade now and I’ve missed out every year, so I put my head down and worked really hard and now I’m reaping the rewards from it,” said Phillips.
Phillips first found Footy when she needed it most, joining a Redfern All Blacks training session to find out if she would suit the game, needless to say, she found her place.
“I had just had my second baby and I was going through a really rough time,” said Phillips.
“One of my good friends played Rugby League for the Redfern All Blacks. She asked me to come along to a training session to see how I would go and she said it would make me feel a lot better.
“I showed up that night and I’ve never looked back since, it’s been an outlet for me and it’s helped me during a tough time in my life, you can sort of say it saved me.”
Two years ago, however, is when Phillips really started to take her game to the next level.
Making quarter and semi-finals weren’t going to cut it and just missing out on representative football was starting to become tiresome.
“It was around 2015 and we had just played our indigenous all-stars game,” said Phillips.
“It was the fifth year that we had lost and it was very close game in the first two quarters and the only thing that let me down was my fitness and I said to myself that I didn’t want to experience that hurt again.
“The girls and I from the leadership group in the Indigenous All Stars and a couple of the girls from the NSW squad got together and we really knuckled down and held ourselves accountable and since then it’s been really impressive results for us.
“We won the first state origin game for the first time in 17 years and I went on to be a part of the indigenous team that won the first All Stars game ever, which then lead into 2016 where NSW won state of origin again and now in 2017 my selection in the Australian team.”
Since joining the Jillaroos camp Phillips is thankful she put in the extra work, as the team have been “put through their paces” after a lot of “strenuous sessions”.
Coming into the back end of career you could forgive Phillips for taking a step back from the game as she juggles full-time work and two children, however, the Premiership winning half has no intention of doing as such.
“It’s all about balance, I won’t lie it is very tough but my family is amazing my husband is amazing, I have a lot of very good friends and the club Redfern are our number one supporters and I wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for my community, my family, my teammates and coaching staff behind me," said Phillips.
“It’s been a great year definitely but it’s not over yet, the game is just on the horizon.
“I might be up there with the oldies now but the number one priority is to grow the game for the younger generation, especially now with the game being semi-professional.
“We want to show young women that this is a career path now and if you knuckle down and work hard it can take you somewhere.”
Phillips also hasn’t ruled out one day potentially leading the Jillaroos to a World Cup as Head Coach.
“Never say never, man,” Phillips laughed.
“It would be tough but never rule it out, I’d love to.”
You can catch Lavina and the rest of the Jillaroos in action this Thursday, as they begin their World Cup campaign against Canada.