Rabbitohs Members and supporters will be familiar with Cody Walker, Alex Johnston and Dane Gagai playing in this Friday’s All Stars match, but the Club has a fourth All Star playing on the night – Kyara Nean.
One of the brightest young prospects for the South Sydney Rabbitohs’ Women’s side, Kyara has been selected to represent the Women’s Indigenous All Stars match, which will kick off at 5:10pm at AAMI Park in Melbourne before the men’s match.
After a whirlwind year in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership in the Cardinal and Myrtle side that made the Grand Final in 2018, Kyara has certainly earned her representative honour with the Indigenous All Stars after rapidly developing her game over the last few seasons at Redfern.
“My family are from the Kamilaroi tribe from North West NSW in Moree,” Nean explained.
“I was born in Newcastle and grew up there my whole life – my parents still live there and two years ago I moved down to Sydney.
“I started with South Sydney originally with Redfern in 2016. We won the NSW Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership that first year, and then Souths took over in 2018 so I’ve been with them since.”
While the All Stars concept isn’t new by any degree, with the inaugural Women’s All Stars matches beginning in 2011 - for Kyara, it is an experience she is enjoying from all different and new angles.
“It’s been incredible so far,” she said.
“The whole vibe has been great, there are people in our coaching staff that we look up to like Dean Widders, Scott Prince, all of the trainers and our media manager. They’ve all been really good in making sure we’re at our best and at 100% and the knowledge that they all hold has been really inspirational.
“Throughout the camp, we’ve had events where we’re learning about our culture, but we’ve also learned about our Maöri brothers and sisters and it’s great to see both sides coming together.”
Back at South Sydney, Kyara has another Indigenous leader to look up to - Head Coach Danny Allende - who she believes is the catalyst for her current position both on and off the field. And for the Red and Green, the second rower says she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
“Danny is great, he’s like a second father to me,” she said.
“Without him and without the coaching he’s given me over the last few years, and ever since I’ve arrived at Sydney I don’t think I’d be in the position I’d be in and be the player I am.
“He’s built me to become a bigger and better person over the years.
“Having the background of working with all of the Indigenous culture is one of the reasons I love Souths, there’s a homely vibe around the Club because everyone’s so welcoming.
“I’m certainly looking forward to getting back on the field. We’ve got a really young squad this year but it’s all about the development so we’ll work hard at training and be back better and stronger.”
Allende says he couldn’t be more pleased for Kyara, citing her selection for the All Stars as a well-deserved reward after her meteoric improvement over the last twelve months.
“It’s an outstanding result for Kyara," said Allende.
"She has worked hard the past couple of years and has really come to prominence in the last six months. From her point of view, I don’t think many people spoke about her until she played in the Aboriginal Knock Out Carnival and absolutely killed it.
“We pushed her into the forward pack and he was outstanding and now she has her first representative honour.
Despite still only being 21 years old, Kyara has found herself in a leadership role at the Rabbitohs, one she is looking forward to embracing in 2019. But as a passionate Kamilaroi woman, she is making sure she can continue to give to not only her teammates, but her community as well.
“It’ll be really good to be a part of the leadership group with Jas (Jamine Allende),” she said.
“It’s a bit of a shock considering I’m still young, but it’s a privilege to be guiding other people and give them opportunities that I’ve had.
“I work for the NSW AECG in Aboriginal Education, and one of my roles is running camps to empower young Indigenous students to go through with careers they can later fulfil.”
How does her All Stars selection stack up in her list of accomplishments?
“It’s one of the biggest things in my sporting career to wear the Indigenous All Stars jersey,” she said.
“I don’t just get to represent my people but my whole culture – watching little girls look up to you, I was one of those players who looked up to all sorts of people so to be put up as a role model is a great honour.
“I’m really looking forward to representing my culture and my people like I said, and I’m expecting it to be a good, tough game.”