Meet the university student who flies interstate every week just to play NRL

Meet the university student who flies interstate every week just to play NRL

“I now get to be part of something I could only dream of”

BY Business Chicks, 6 min READ

We’ve partnered with the NRL to profile three of Australia’s first female Premiership rugby league players. We all know the adage, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see,’ and these are the history-making women who are showing young girls that they can aspire to play sport full-time, whether it’s AFL, cricket, or NRL.

Now, we’re taking a look into the life of Vanessa Foliaki, who jumps on a plane every weekend just to train with her team. Talk about dedication…

Living in Brisbane and training in Sydney, I’m flying down every week

My weeks have gotten a lot crazier since signing on to play in the NRLW. I fly to Sydney every weekend to train and then fly back to Brisbane.

I work Monday to Friday and do a half-day on Friday at work so that I can travel to Sydney to train with the team Saturday morning. After training we fly straight back and we do the same thing every week!

In between work and my own training during the week, I fit in university, as well. It’s a lot of travelling but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I was always determined to play pro sport (since I was a kid)

My big dream was playing rugby union for the Black Ferns. Back home, everyone in New Zealand plays rugby union and I played since I was six.

I started playing rugby league in 2014, but rugby union was my priority sport until 2016. I broke my ankle during my rugby union Grand Final and that’s when I decided to leave the game. My focus was then playing in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

Read more:  Meg Ward: RAAF firefighter and one of NRL’s first female rugby league players

I now get to be part of something I could only dream of

With the NRLW coming in, there is nothing more rewarding then this opportunity to be part of the first ever NRLW competition and set the foundation for the next generation.

Rugby league has always been a sport I played because I enjoyed and loved the game.

Since the NRL shared the photo my partner, Karina and I kissing – life has been turned upside down

In case you missed it: following this year’s first women’s State of Origin, the NRL shared an image of Vanessa kissing her partner, Karina. Funnily enough, Karina also happened to be on the other team, captaining the Queensland side.

The media attention was really tough at the beginning – there was so much of it. Some was negative but the majority was positive, so that made it easier for us. We had the support of our families our friends, the NRL and our supporters, so we embraced the photo and hope one day that ‘kiss’ will be seen as ‘normal’.

A lot of people reached out to us after the photo was taken who are in a similar position just to let us know how much our photo inspired them.

With all the change, I’ve needed to lean on people

My partner and our families are our biggest support network. Karina works longer hours and sorts out things around the house when I work and have university.

We know if we ever needed anything we could turn to our families for help, and the Sydney Roosters have been amazing. They made our transition to flying in and out of Sydney weekly very easy to balance with living in Queensland.

Vanessa (second from right) with her Jillaroos team mates and partner, Karina (right).

You can’t really describe the feeling in our team

Our team spirit is something really special. The whole playing group, as well as our staff, are just one big family. The Roosters have a great culture and the group of girls they have gathered all fit really well together.

We have great belief and trust within our squad; I know we’ll be putting our bodies on the line when game day comes!

I can’t wait to play with Karina this season

Playing with my best mates and my partner Karina is such a highlight of this season.

We’re creating history for the younger generation coming through. It’s a whole new experience for me becoming a semi-professional athlete, and I can’t wait to get started.

I have one more thing left on my bucket list…

And, that’s to win the first ever NRLW Premiership with the Sydney Roosters.

The Grand Final for the NRL Holden Women’s Premiership will be played on the same day as the NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final – September 30th at ANZ Stadium. Tickets are on sale for this now at

Follow the journey of the NRLW on social @wrugbyleague and use #NRLW and #OurWay to join the conversation.


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