The Selfless Decision Studdon Made For Walton
Maddie Studdon has always been selfless.
She's a born leader who constantly leads by example in only the best way she knows how – not by words, but by her actions.
So when Elianna Walton lead NSW out onto North Sydney Oval for the inaugural Women's State of Origin fixture – celebrating her record of 10 Origin appearances for NSW, it spoke volumes of the admirable leadership credentials Studdon personifies.
It was an incredible gesture from Studdon despite it being her first game as captain of the Harvey Norman NSW Women's team - a decision that is hard not to admire.
"Last night at the jersey presentation she got up and said she would like to give me the honour of running out first,' Walton told NSWRL.com.au.
"I asked her if she was sure because it was her first time as captain and she just said she wanted me to do it and I was just very, very honoured."
Studdon has well and truly cemented herself as one of Rugby League's elite players – not only boasting unrivalled attacking flair but also an incredible work ethic that has seen her develop into one of the games greats.
So when Walton was asked about the value of Studdon's leadership, the stalwart couldn't speak highly enough of the player who has firmly embedded her name into Rugby League folklore.
"She's outstanding and she's just a natural leader," she said.
"She's such a cool, calm and collected leader and she doesn't put pressure on you, she just expects and wants the best from you.
"She's like that for all the girls - she is such a team player and she's a future immortal of the game."
Having enjoyed a stellar representative career of her own – with three interstate victories along and two Rugby League World Cup wins to her name, Walton has become a pioneer of the women's game in recent years.
And after a defiant 16-10 victory on Friday night – a match that was synonymous with the blood, sweat and tears that State of Origin has brought to fans for 38 years, Walton was lost for words when describing the performance from a side that had just created history.
"It's so surreal – I'm just a mum that loves footy and I'm just over the moon right now," she said.
"I'm just so proud of the girls for digging deep - we weren't stressed in the sheds and we stayed composed – Crossy [Coach Ben Cross] just said to keep grinding and give it everything you got, and we did."
The popularity of Women's Rugby League has grown significantly in past years, to the extent that Walton was swamped by fans following the full-time siren as she was basking in the glory only an Origin victory could bring.
And as she stood alongside a fan-made banner of her name and photo, the Vice-Captain spoke with sheer passion and euphoria after donning the sky-blue jumper for the 10th time.
"I get asked that quite a bit but I'm very privileged that I can still be in the game and still love it,' she said.
"I still have that passion and it just shows how much I love this [NSW] jersey.
"I'm a proud woman and I'm very humbled to have worn it for so long."