NRLW: Rookie Camp, NRLW’s young rising stars learn life skills and wellness techniques ahead of next season at inaugural camp

From building resilience skills to the menstrual cycle, no topic was off limits at NRLW’s inaugural rookie camp over the weekend.

Around 35 of the next crop of NRLW-signed stars from the six clubs gathered near Newcastle for the two-day event organized by the NRL’s welfare and education department and the RLPA.

The first rookie camp for rising female stars had a strong focus on wellness and education around life and social skills that can help shape a player both on and off the field.

With interest in women’s rugby league on the rise, the education of players at camp is crucial to their overall career development.

NRLW young guns Tiana Raftstrand-Smith, Jada Taylor, Sara Sautia, Tayla Predebon and Jasmine Peters were among those in attendance.

NRLW senior players Holli Wheeler and Shontelle Stowers, Knights mainstay Caitlan Johnston, Roosters injured winger Brydie Parker, Broncos assistant coach Meg Ward and forward Natassja Purontakanen also spoke to the group.

Sessions included important discussion on topics unique to the game, including women’s health, social responsibilities, financial planning, indigenous culture, drugs in sport, morals and ethics, social media, and building resilience .

“I had a great time, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was amazed at the resources they gave us in such a short amount of time,” Knights recruit Tayla Predebon told NRL.com.

Tayla Predebon (right) with Knights NRLW welfare officer Holly Fuda and teammates Kyra Simon and Emma Paki at rookie camp Monday.
Tayla Predebon (right) with Knights NRLW welfare officer Holly Fuda and teammates Kyra Simon and Emma Paki at rookie camp Monday.
©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

“There were so many different aspects of wellness that you don’t really think affect your football, so a lot of the ones that caught our eye were amazing and there were plenty of resources to help us achieve and thrive overall.

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“I found the female health side of performance to be really important and relatable, obviously as female athletes we need to understand our cycle and when to push ourselves or when to back off a bit.

“Financial issues as well, now that they are starting to pay us a little more, will become a very important aspect that we have to manage.

“How quickly the game is growing was also very insightful on the media side and how we manage our social media platforms.

“It was great to be able to meet the girls from other clubs but still represent ours and have that ability to blend in.”

Shark attack survivor Brett Connellan kicked off camp with his inspiring story before players finished camp in real-life settings alongside a bevy of talented sports actors who made them question their morals and choices.

NRL Senior Welfare and Education Manager Paul Heptonstall said the game has a duty to prepare both young men and women for the challenges that may arise throughout their careers.

Dragons players Shontelle Stowers, Holli Wheeler, Natassja Purontakanen and Keele Browne.
Dragons players Shontelle Stowers, Holli Wheeler, Natassja Purontakanen and Keele Browne.
©Paul Barkley/NRL Photos

“There are a lot of opportunities, but with that will come some challenges,” Heptonstall said.

“We want to see them push themselves in the NRLW environment but also survive because there’s a lot of pressure and scrutiny. The idea of ​​the camp is to prepare them for some of the challenges that may come up.”

“The NRLW camp was a little bit more emotionally prepared because the biggest challenge that a lot of players face is that the expectation most of the time is that they just have to deal with something and then move on.

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“Not everyone has the tools to do that automatically. I also think it’s really good that we include as many former or current players as possible because coming from them it resonates much more with the younger group.”