Kelly’s fast rise to the top

Growing up with four brothers on the Central Coast of New South Wales in a rugby league family on can only mean one thing: you’re in and amongst it.

It was inevitable that Australian Jillaroos centre Isabelle Kelly would one day lace up the boots, but with a limited junior rugby league background herself the opportunity arrived late.

The 20-year-old would regularly attend her brother’s games on a Saturday. Then, one afternoon, Kelly one day decided it was time to chase her own dream after limited opportunities in the junior systems.

“I was sitting on the couch a couple of years ago and I remember looking at the TV and the women’s Test match came on and I said to my partner ‘I want to be there one day’,” Kelly said.

“I used to play a bit of touch football but nothing compares to rugby league. When I was growing up there was no pathway so I had to play other codes.

“I only really got to play when I started school because no female competitions were around.

“I went and watched the girls the next year and I was picked for the Jillaroos squad.”

Kelly is now the Country rugby league ambassador for a Nines competition and stays in regular contact with local club Berkeley Vale.

The pathways now in place allow for young girls in junior rugby league to remain driven and not be lost to the sport through external factors.

“There are a lot of sports like touch football and Oztag that reflect around rugby league but having a pathway for girls is amazing,” Kelly said.

“You see girls coming through now and how much skill they have, they’re going to go well when they’re older.

“I only began three years ago when a female competition was made available on the coast.

“Being in the community environment I got to meet new people and watch players who now play in the higher ranks.

“I’d just say go for it, it’s honestly is the best sport I have ever played.”

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