Kezie Apps has signed the dotted line with the St George Illawarra Dragons and will be one of the first players to contest the maiden Women’s NRL Premiership.
Ever since the Dragons were granted a licence to contend as one of four clubs pundits have banked on the club ambassador to be one of the first pick-ups.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet,” Apps said Tuesday night. “But it soon will once we start signing more girls and a team starts to form.”
Apps was beaming to be one of three Jillaroos named for the Dragons alongside Sam Bremner and Talesha Quinn.
“It’s very exciting to be one of the first ever women to sign for an NRL club and hopefully I can inspire young females to want to grow up and play for the Dragons.”
Coach Daniel Lacey said Apps was an obvious choice as she already “has plenty of passion for the Dragons”, but went on to praise the Dally M winner’s on-field ability.
"I think she's the best back-rower in the world for female rugby league and she's a great ambassador for the club,” he said.
Growing up in a league-household with two big brothers, Apps said footy was part of her life and this signing was a watershed moment for her.
“It means everything to me, growing up watching the NRL on tv and looking up to the boys, and now for me to be playing in the first ever women’s premiership … how good is that?”
Apps said it was a huge honour and she would be proud to don the Dragons jumper later this year.
It’s something she hopes can inspire the next generation of female footy stars.
“I want to inspire the next generation of kids to play rugby league; especially the country kids where opportunities aren’t as easy or readily available,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, as long as you are committed, dedicated and willing to work hard, you can do anything.”
A professional playing contract is a far cry from the state of play when Apps first joined full contact league five years ago.
“It has all progressed so rapidly,” she said. “Women’s is the fastest-growing section of rugby league and the more exposure we [Jillaroos] received the more support we’ve had and it’s helping girls want to play the game.”
Apps credited the Aussie team’s success at last year’s World Cup in helping nudge the NRL towards professional contracts for women’s players.
“It’s exciting to be classed as semi-professional; we still need to work for a regular income, but it allows us the support from the NRL to help with training and the resources to become better athletes.”
There is now a “full on calendar” for the Dragons ambassador, including a televised one-off State of Origin on June 22. Then she’ll finish her regular season with Helensburgh ahead of the debut NRL Premiership rounds in late August.