WHEN Grace Hamilton was growing up in Panuara her only involvement with rugby union was as a spectator, but when she returns to the Central West this weekend it will be as one of Australia's leading female talents.
Hamilton is part of the NSW Waratahs outfit which will take on the Melbourne Rebels in Sunday's Super W match at Ashwood Park.
The talented number 8 - who is also Wallaroos representative - can't wait to lace up her boots in Bathurst.
"There have been a few country games played on club level and I've asked for so many of them to be in the Central West and they haven't, so for me this is going to be the first time I've played in the Central West and I'm so excited to come back home," Hamilton, who's home town is located around an hour away from Bathurst, said.
"There wasn't a lot of women's rugby when I was growing up. There might have been some but it wasn't something that was really on the sporting scene in the Central West, whereas now I know it's growing and going from strength to strength in the Central West.
"I was just that little girl on the sidelines cheering on my brother and my Dad, so for women's rugby in Central West now to be such a big sport is great. It's something I'd obviously like to, in the future, try and help build it tenfold."
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Though Hamilton admits she was a little envious when hearing about the Central West women's side touring New Zealand earlier this year, she has enjoyed plenty of representative rugby herself.
The Waratahs won last year's maiden Super W crown - going through the competition undefeated - and heading into this Sunday's final round match against the Rebels they have a three from three record for 2019.
Hamilton feels the Super W competition has been hugely important to developing women's rugby in Australia.
"Super W has given us more consistent high-level games which is so important. Having it is allowing us to be in a full-time program at an amateur level," she said.
"We are still working, but we're training four nights a week then have a game. So for us it's a big commitment, but it's opening our eyes in terms of what it takes to play at that national level.
"It's definitely lifted the standard as well."
Hamilton is one of two Waratahs vice-captains who have been named for Sunday's clash, one her side must win to claim the Super W minor premiership.
Her form in the tight-five has been excellent, but she said each player in sky blue is crucial to their title defence.
"It's amazing that I get that opportunity to be in a leadership position. But for me, it's not about having a letter next to my name, it's more about creating a culture at the team and everyone plays a role in that," she said.
"To be honest, the Rebels' performances have improved dramatically with every game they've played. I think their full of surprises, we don't know what they are going to throw at us, but hopefully we can come together.
"I think with our NSW team at the moment we are building. Last season we started strongly then we sort of plateaued but, this season I can feel it building."
Sunday's match will kick-off at 3pm.
NSW WARATAHS: 1 Emily Robinson, 2 Tasmin Sheppard, 3 Evelyn Horomia, 4 Ana-Lise Sio, 5 Sera Naiqama, 6 Alexandra Sulusi (vc), 7 Emily Chancellor, 8 Grace Hamilton (vc), 9 Katrina Barker, 10 Chloe Leaupepe, 11 Shanice Parker, 12 Arabella McKenzie, 13 Crystal Maguire, 14 Maya Stewart, 15 Ashleigh Hewson (c), 16 Melissa Fatu, 17 Matalena Wilson, 18 Tisera Volkman, 19 Pareake O'Brien, 20 Fi Jones, 21 Phoebe Loughhead, 22 Mahalia Murphy, 23 Kennedy Cherrington.