It was the fly in, fly out mission costing well over $1000 that typifies the passion Grace McFillin clearly has for rugby league.
The 18-year-old lock travelled over 3000 kilometres by air from her home in Townsville to Sydney on Wednesday to try her luck in the first ever Sea Eagles Tarsha Gale Cup squad invitational trial.
Open to girls turning 18 or 19 in 2023, the Tarsha Gale Cup is an Under 19 female junior representative competition run by the NSWRL.
Along with a girls junior development program, this is the first step for the Manly Club in the creation of a complete Sea Eagles female pathway with the intention to apply for a NRLW licence for the 2025 season.
McFillin flew out of Townsville at 9.30am on Wednesday at a cost of $420 one way before landing in Sydney just under three hours later.
Following a whirlwind airport shuttle to her hotel and a quick rest, McFillin then spent an hour long Uber ride, and a mere $100 or so, to be at the Sydney Academy of Sport at Narrabeen for the early evening trial.
“I’m just so grateful to be here,’’ beamed McFillin ahead of the trial.
“I was searching through the internet a few weeks back looking for Tarsha Gale Cup trials and I came across the Sea Eagles trial.
“Being from Townsville, I actually didn’t think I would get accepted but I knew I had nothing to lose, so I applied.
“When I got an email from the Sea Eagles saying I was in, I started celebrating a little. But the job is not done yet, I need to make the squad first.”
McFillin wasted little time making her presence felt, making some bone jarring hits in the first two tackles of the trial played in a cool 19 degrees – a far cry from the humid conditions she left behind in Townsville earlier in the day.
Throughout the trial, McFillin made some strong carries and worked hard in defence. She grew up playing rugby league in Perth with the North Beach Sea Eagles Club before driving across to Townsville in June with her parents, and three dogs, to look after her ill Grandma.
“I enjoyed the trial. It was good stuff,’’ she said afterwards.
“I thought I went okay. I just love playing rugby league.”
And just like that, with her kit bag over her shoulder, it was time to book an Uber again back to her Sydney hotel.
On Friday afternoon, McFillin flew home to Townsville at a cost of $518, hoping the next time she returns to Sydney is to play for the Sea Eagles.
“The cost to get here is worth it, just to get myself out there and experience it all,’’ McFillin added.
“I’m prepared to move to Sydney to play for the Sea Eagles if I get in. I’ve only been to Sydney about three times in my life and I don’t know anyone here.
“But it would be awesome to be in the first Sea Eagles Tarsha Gale Cup team, so fingers crossed.
“That’s my goal…to get into the Tarsha Gale Cup and then hopefully make it into the NRLW one day.”