The quartet made their Rugby League World Cup debut together taking Papua New Guinea (PNG) to its first semifinal.
Once again, they’re creating history by each other’s side, but this time in Townsville.
Essay Banu, Sera Koroi, Shellie Long and Jessikah Reeves followed their PNG Orchids head coach Ben Jeffries back to Townsville to be a part of the Cowboys’ first NRLW team, with Jeffries at the helm.
The Cowboys, Canberra Raiders, West Tigers and Cronulla Sharks have expanded into the NRLW this year, bringing the women’s premiership to a 10-team format with nine rounds before play-offs.
Round one kicks off on July 22.
The four PNG representatives were early signing announcements for the Cowboys, with their world cup efforts spotlighting them for selection.
Jeffries believes the quartet bring great talent and diversity from their world cup experience,
“Shellie, Jess, Essay and Sera were regular starters at the recent world cup and just as important, they are great humans, which is what we look for when attracting players to the Cowboys,” he said.
Banu, Koroi, Long and Reeves also impressed through the club pathways system, playing in Queensland Rugby League’s Women’s Premiership, second-tier to the NRLW.
A standout is Banu, who earned 2022 Prop of the Year.
The four athletes have re-organised their lives to join the Cowboys.
Long, her partner and her dog all made the move north from Brisbane and she continues to juggle finishing her Law and Criminology degree.
“It’s been quite tricky for me in terms of taking exams, we’ve been trying to organise getting those done here during the season,” said Long.
Koroi and her 18-month-old son also relocated from Brisbane.
Twenty-year-old Koroi is the only player in the team who is a mum but feels that despite the challenges, her rugby league dreams have come true,
“Having to do this and parenting is a big thing. But all my hard work has paid off … all the long nights at training, the trips away, it’s all come down to this moment and I’m so glad I’m here,” she said.
Until this year, the Broncos were the only NRLW team in Queensland.
Banu (Tully) and Long (Innisfail) both grew up in the far north and think the addition of an NRLW team with the Cowboys will inspire young girls in north Queensland,
“This gives a pathway for girls up north to strive for. We’re already working with a lot of inspiring young players from here in the development squad,” said Banu.
“Two NRLW teams in Queensland is a such a game changer for girls’ pathways. This opens up so many more spots and gives them a sense of hope.”
The four also want to inspire girls in Papua New Guinea.
Long believes there is a high chance the Prime Minister’s XIII will be hosted in PNG this year,
“If we do get selected for the Orchids for the PM’s XIII, we can get around to the communities, reach out to young girls and meet the women who are playing rugby league up there,” she said.