THEY'RE players she could only admire from afar to date, but Gabrielle Suckling is excited by the chance to play alongside a host of Jillaroos stars after being named in the NSW Country women's rugby league squad.
Suckling (Wagga Brothers) is one of four Riverina players chosen in the 22-player squad, which will aim to defend their national championships crown on the Gold Coast from May 30 to June 2.
After helping guide Riverina to victory at the first women's Country Rugby League championships last month, Emma Hickey (Junee), Takilele Katoa (Griffith) and Tess Staines (Yanco Wamoon) were also selected.
Suckling, who plays league tag for Wagga Brothers but has played tackle for Yass Magpies in the Canberra competition the last three years, said the chance to learn off Jillaroos Isabelle Kelly, Kezie Apps, Bec Young, Ruan Sims, Hannah Southwell, Keeley Davis and Vanessa Foliaki will be invaluable.
"Some of those girls you look up to a bit, you watch them in the Jillaroos and NRLW and it's awesome to get to train with them and hopefully get to play alongside them in a couple of weeks," Suckling said.
"They're the benchmark for the girls out there and there's a lot of them in this (NSW Country) team, it's very exciting."
Suckling said the increased avenues for regional women's talent to reach the top level of the sport will only grow as the NRLW builds on its first season.
"There's so many different pathways for us to have a go and it can lead somewhere. The players you get to play against and with is great," Suckling said.
"The Riverina team has been our only pathway recently, that's why we weren't able to do too much in the past, but it's all coming together now."
"We all come from a league tag or union background, and there's a few Riverina girls playing in the Canberra league now with the Bidgee Bulls team.
Suckling makes the four-hour round trip to Yass for games each week and sometimes for training, but says it's all worth it as she ticks goals off her bucket list.
"That (NRLW) would be the long term goal, but the initial goal is making the smaller rep teams and hopefully building up to that," she said.