Bega rugby league star Kezie Apps has been recalled to the Australian Jillaroos side to compete in the Auckland Nines.
The stunning growth of the women’s contact format has seen the forward stepping up her training as she looks to match the physicality of the New Zealand women’s roster.
“My training schedule has definitely gotten harder,” Kezie says off her off-season sessions. “I had to train extra harder to keep my position in the squad.”
There were valuable lessons learned in last year’s Nines where the Ferns defeated Australia soundly.
Apps said she hasn’t exactly got the fend of GI or the Hayne Plane’s quick stepping, but would focus on some key skills to get back at the NZ squad.
“I think it comes down to holding possession, moving the ball around to make them work and looking for the quick play-the-balls,” Apps said.
“Do that, get them on the back foot and we will win.”
The Nines includes a chance to watch some of the men’s games, as well as mingling with the NRL stars off the paddock.
Apps, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of the women’s league says she still gets a little star struck around some of her favourite players.
“It was crazy this year getting to mingle with them in the players’ area, just casually walking past some of the big names of the sport,” she said with a laugh.
There isn’t much time to talk though with a “pretty full on” weekend of games, so Apps has been enjoying some time at home with her fiance, friends and family.
The Jillaroos have undergone a bit of a shake up, but Apps said the side boasts a good mix of experienced heads and exuberant young talent.
The energy in camp is palpable and the Bega player can’t wait to get on the field.
In just her second year with the side, Apps said she felt a bit of an “oldie in the group”.
“Even though it’s only my second year, I know everything that goes in camp it’s not as daunting anymore,” she said.
“We all get on so well and everyone make the new girls feel comfortable , it's great.”
Carrying a back injury last year meant a troublesome debut in the Nines, but an intense training schedule has the gun forward primed and ready for the contest.
Not only working with NRL and state league trainers, but a series of supporters at home, who keep Apps motivated and moving.
“I'm even more excited for next year as I'm injury free and I know our preparation will be so much better leading into the games this time around,” Apps said.
“Brooke who I train with [at home] has pushed me to new limits and picks me up if I don't feel like training.
“I’m also really lucky and grateful that I've had a lot of help some Shaun [Ruzicka] and Lachlan [Carey] at United Fitness with my programs.”
The challenge now is to maintain her diet – though she said Christmas day would definitely prove an exception - while she will also work with Bega rugby league coach Kane Morgan to hone some of her skills.
“I am training hard and enjoying my journey playing the greatest game of all.”