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Tungai has rekindled her love of Rugby League

It has been a bit of a struggle but finally former Jillaroo and Sky Blue Shakiah Tungai has reignited her love for Rugby League.

A natural winger with speed and anticipation, Tungai made her senior representative debut in the PM’s XIII against Papua New Guinea in 2018.

That was after her NRLW debut that season with St George Illawarra. She played three years with the Dragons during which time she made her Harvey Norman NSW Sky Blues debut in 2019, scoring a try in the 14-4 win over Queensland.

Tungai was picked for the Jillaroos later that year for the October Test against the New Zealand Silver Ferns and for the World Nines.

But a season-ending shoulder injury with the Dragons in 2020 forced her out of the NRLW’s postponed 2021 season the following February.

Then the pandemic competition cancellations came and Tungai said she fell out of love with the game around the same time as COVID hit.

But in 2023 she is back playing wing-fullback for the Illawarra Steelers in Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership and feeling the ‘love’ once again.

“Last year I was back, but I feel like this is the true comeback season,” Tungai told                                                                                                                     

“Despite my injury I just needed a break, not so much physically, but I had a lot going on in my personal life so I needed to get away and get things sorted.

“All my friends from Corrimal Cougars looked after me so it was great to get back playing with them last year before moving back up to HN (Harvey Norman).

“They helped me get my love back for footy.

“I took a break from the game so I wasn’t really aiming for anything like the HN or the NRLW season.”

But she received a call from the Brisbane Broncos for the 2022 competition last August.

“I was grateful for the call from the Broncos but now I’m back playing in Harvey Norman because we have a team in Wollongong which has made it easier for me,” said the Port Kembla junior.

“The sky’s the limit I hope.”

So far so good as the Steelers, who made their Harvey Norman debut this year, finished second on the ladder with seven wins from 10 games.

Tungai will be playing in the Semi-finals tomorrow (Sunday 23 April) against another debutant team this year, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, for a shot in the Women’s Premiership Grand Final on 29 April.

Indigenous All Stars Shakiah Tungai and Quincy Dodd
Indigenous All Stars Shakiah Tungai and Quincy Dodd

She already has her rep career back on track by gaining her third Indigenous All Stars jersey last February in Rotorua in the 16-12 loss to the Maori.

Her NRLW career is also returning as one of the four new expansion teams, the Canberra Raiders, has signed her for this year’s competition starting in late July.

“I’ve been taking it a step at a time to ease myself back in so hopefully those higher-level opportunities come my way again.”

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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