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Lilly Baker

There’s commitment to the cause and then there’s Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Under 19s players Lilly Baker and Taneka Todhunter.

Baker’s mum and dad make the six-hour round trip from Orange to Sydney and back again so she can play for the Glebe Dirty Reds in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership.

“I started in the second round and here’s been a few byes, so maybe we drove down six weekends in total (for games) but also for some training sessions,” Baker said.

Taneka’s grandparents Ian and Melissa Todhunter were the main ‘taxis’ to get talented hooker from Dubbo to her Harvey Norman Tarsha Gale Cup club commitments with the Indigenous Academy Sydney Roosters.

“I was travelling to every training session for the first year but then COVID happened,” she said, which saved the family a 10-hour round trip three times a week.

“I got the call-up again this year, so I moved my whole life to here (Sydney). But it was a big commitment from my family, huge.”

The rewards have come twofold this year. Both players were named in NSW Country for the Under 19s National Championships at Redcliffe in May.

Then a week after the Nationals, both players were named in the NSW Under 19s side to face Queensland Under 19s as the curtain-raiser to the Ampol Women’s State of Origin at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Friday 25 June.

“My whole family cried… it was a very special moment,” Baker said, after coach Blake Cavallaro picked her at lock.

Earning her NSW jersey produced a similar reaction over at the Todhunter house – just a lot more tissues were required as Taneka has 10 brothers and sisters, after her parents divorced.

Taneka Todhunter
Taneka Todhunter

“The whole family is very happy, and very proud,” Todhunter said.

“It’s been a big commitment as sometimes my mum would give me money for petrol, because sometimes I drove myself.

“My dad drove me sometimes, but mostly my grandparents. It was just like a rotation through the family.”

Now that they both have broken into representative teams, Baker and Todhunter have no intention of stopping there.

“I’d love to go as far as I can – I love the game,” Baker said.

“I’m moving to Newcastle next year for university so maybe something there. The NRLW is a definite goal so let’s see what happens.

“Out of this NSW camp I want to push my mental fitness more, because with Country I felt like my brain thinks I can’t get through it, but my body knows it can.”

Todhunter added: “Coming from Dubbo I just wanted to make something of myself. And I loved football, so doing those hours was just something I had to do to.

“Obviously with a great bunch of girls, great staff, in the NSW team I’m just learning a lot and bettering myself as a player.

“I just love the contact, the physical side of things.”