The Call That Brought Apps To Tears
Kezie Apps is one of the toughest players in the game but even she has her moments.
Having missed out on the All Stars and the Anzac Test due to a broken leg suffered at the Auckland Nines, the star Jillaroo had one thing on her mind as she battled through the recovery process: the Women's Interstate Challenge.
The 2016 Dally M Female Player of the Year knuckled down in her recovery in a bid to prove her fitness to Blues coach Ben Cross and that's what made his phone call one of the most emotional days of her rugby league career.
"When I was told I couldn't come back for the Test, my next focus was Origin," she told NRL.com ahead of Sunday's game.
"I knew with the extended break between the Test and Origin that it was doable so I put my mind to it and trained my arse off to get there.
"To get that call from Crossy, I literally cried.
"I had to ask him if he was serious because I couldn't believe it. I asked him 'what number am I?' because to even be on the bench would have been amazing, but then he asked me what number I usually played in and I told him it was number 11 so he said 'well that's what you'll wear'.
"To be playing at WIN Stadium will be incredible because I remember playing my first Test match here back in 2014 against New Zealand and it was awesome. This is my home turf so to be able to play in front of friends and family – and for the game to be shown live on TV – it's an amazing step for the game."
Fellow Blue and Jillaroo, Sam Bremner, knows just how important Apps' inclusion will be as NSW aim to defend their title following last year's drought-breaking Interstate Challenge win.
"She is a massive threat to Queensland and it's always good to play alongside her," Bremner told NRL.com.
"She's a humble player which makes her a good person to be around, especially when exposure is getting so big around the women's game. It's good to surround yourself with down-to-earth people like Kezie and it just so happens that she's also one of the best players in the world."
Sunday's game will also mark Bremner's return to the representative scene after she was ruled out of the mid-season Test due to a concussion she'd suffered in the captain's run just a day before kick-off.
It was a cruel blow for one of the game's finest players, but it didn't stop Bremner and Apps from playing a key role in Australia's 16-4 win over the Kiwi Ferns at GIO Stadium.
Clad in their Aussie tracksuits, the star duo were almost as energetic as the players as they rode every bone-crunching tackle and breakaway try in a frenzied state on the sideline.
"I think that's just how Kezie and I are. We're very passionate people on and off the field, whether we're watching a game of football or playing it," the talented fullback said.
"We were losing our minds on the sideline in a good way because the girls were playing so, so well and we just wanted to support them and cheer them on as much as we could.
"At the time it was really heartbreaking because in the seven years I've played representative football, I've never sat out a game.
"I think I was a little bit heartbroken because physically my body was fine so I was ready to play, but at the same time you've got to appreciate the values and the rules the NRL have in relation to concussion so I had to sit that out.
"Now that the dust has settled, I think that might have been a blessing in disguise because I'm hungrier than ever to get out there on Sunday and play some good football because I didn't get that opportunity earlier in the year."
This article first appeared on NRL.com