WHEN Nicole Schneider was growing up she watched countless of hours of rugby league, but never did she imagine she would one day get the chance to play herself.
Now that her chance has finally come in the form of the Western Women's Rugby League competition not only is Schneider embracing the opportunity, but she is issuing a message to young girls around the region.
It's to grab the opportunity to play.
"I have two brothers and my Dad was rugby league mad, so I grew up watching rugby league all weekend. To get an opportunity to play it, like you've really got to jump on it," Schneider, who plays for the Bathurst-based Panorama Platypi, said.
"I think a lot of girls have grown up around league and with brothers and fathers have supported it, and maybe watched your boyfriend play it, but didn't get the opportunity to play it. Now we have the opportunity to do it, it is a bit special.
"I never thought I'd have got the opportunity to play. It's good we have got it around here now and even though it's only a short comp, it gives you a taste.
"When I was younger I was always around it, but I never ever pictured myself playing it. I'm 27 now and I really wish I played when I was younger, I wish there was opportunities because you can see how fast people can improve over a couple of years.
"If girls my age played when we were young, I can't imagine how skilful and experienced we'd be now."
Last Sunday at Dunedoo, Schneider and her fellow Platypi notched up their first win of this season's competition. They came from a 12-0 half-time deficit to beat Castlereagh 28-12.
Zarlia Griffiths, a proven league tag talent, scored a double and booted four goals, while Hannah Kelly, Haylee Lepaio and Minna Annand also crossed the stripe.
The result has the Playtpi sitting fourth on the ladder with games against Mudgee and the Goannas to come.
"We sort of had a chat at half-time and we knew we had to add discipline. So we lifted that, our ball security and we just supported each other. We got around each other, we knew we could throw the ball around a bit more," Schneider said.
"I'm really excited to see the next few weeks what we can do. We're improving all the time, even the drills we do at training we are picking up a lot quicker, being able to push the pass a bit more, being able to trust the people around you a bit more.
"I'm excited to see how we go and anything can happen heading into finals. I think we've got a good shot, we've got a good group of girls."
That win further cemented Schneider's belief that females of all ages can quickly adapt to what has traditionally been a male sport.
While she and her Platypi team-mates still have plenty to learn, Schneider said the improvement over the three rounds played under coach Shane Hastings has been obvious.
"It's a massive range of skill and experience, so it was tough to start with at training," she said.
"A couple of the girls have come across from soccer, there are a fair few league tag girls and a couple that have never played anything like that before.
"There are also others like me who have come across from rugby and we're still learning the rules as well. There's a difference in tackling and the fitness is out of control in rugby league, I can't believe how hard it is - that's one thing that shocked me.
"But the way that everyone has come together and supported each other, there is a really good culture and vibe amongst the team. It's really nice to be a part of it.
"I've been surprised to see that while everyone's backgrounds are so different, we can gel together."
As well as the open Platypi finding success against Castlereagh, the under 18s posted a 30-20 win and the under 15s downed the Cougars 44-6. The Panorama under 13s continued their development too. What they produced impressed the spectators at Dunedoo.
"My Dad was there and he was absolutely mind-blown at how good these younger kids were and he said they were coming in just red hot in their tackles and no fear at all, no pulling out, no hesitation," Schneider said.
"He said that in a few years those young kids are going to be phenomenal. He was stoked to see that."