Helensburgh's Kezie Apps set to debut for Jillaroos
Countless hours on the Princes Highway will be worthwhile when women's rugby league's newest star Kezie Apps makes her international debut in Wollongong in November.
Her first appearance for the Jillaroos will cap a remarkable debut year for Apps who was named the Women in the Army Illawarra League player of the year at last Friday's Paul McGregor Medal.
It's one of several gongs the hard-hitting back-rower has notched this year. She was named NSW player of the match in her debut women's Origin game in July and picked up player of the match honours with four tries in the Tigerlillies thumping 42-6 win over Port Kembla in the Illawarra grand final.
The plaudits have been a fitting reward for the sacrifice that's seen the 23-year-old regularly make the 374km, five-hour drive from her hometown of Bega to Rex Jackson Oval to train and play with the Tigerlillies.
"I never thought I'd get player of the year especially in my first year ... I can't believe I've done it," Apps said.
Apps grew up with a footy in her hands playing in some fierce backyard battles with older brothers Ryan and Dion.
'They both encouraged me to play football. We always used to play backyard footy with our Dad. It was all we ever did so I didn't really have a choice," she said.
Apps last played rugby league at 11 but with the age where girls can no longer play with boys drawing near she switched to hockey before two years of league tag (a modified version of Oztag based on league rules) reignited her passion for the oval ball.
With her brother's residence at Miranda her halfway house, Apps started making the weekly 10-hour round trip to play for the Tigerlillies where her form quickly captured the attention of rep selectors.
If some brutal shots in the opening exchanges of the women's Origin didn't get the attention of the Jillaroos selectors, a barnstorming 50-metre solo try in the second half certainly did.
The effort saw her named alongside Helensburgh and NSW teammates Sam Hammond, Maddi Studdon and Ruan Sims in national coach Steve Folkes' squad for the November Test in Wollongong.
This article originally appeared in the Illawarra Mercury on 17/9/2014