Maya Stewart says she cried a few tears when she learned she would be making her debut for the Wallaroos at the Rugby World Cup.
The 22-year-old, who plays for the New South Wales Waratahs in Super W, had to bide her time.
For a while, she feared she would never play for the national team. This year, she suffered her third ACL injury, which threatened to derail her career.
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She was chosen to play in the Laurie O’Reilly Cup, but did not play in any matches in Christchurch or Adelaide.
Now Stewart is set to start when Australia take on Scotland on Saturday in Whangarei.
“It was quite emotional,” Stewart said.
“I definitely shed a few tears with the girls. Super excited.”
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For the Newcastle-born player, a positive mindset was key to not losing sight of her ambition.
“I think it was all about getting down to business initially, getting surgery quickly, and then setting an end goal but not putting all my eggs in one basket,” she explained.
“If I got here, I got here. Obviously I worked very hard and Jay [Tregonning, head coach] and the team surrounded me. I am here.
“I think having a really good support network, family and my boyfriend in Sydney, but obviously the team as well and having KB (Kylie Baldwin), our physio in Sydney, was brilliant.
“It’s pretty special to me. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, finally having the opportunity to do it is amazing.”
Stewart had a circuitous route to the Rugby World Cup after playing league and touchdown as a teenager.
It wasn’t until her family encouraged her to pursue her union career and she saw the Wallaroos at the 2016 edition of the Rugby World Cup that her interest piqued.
“I didn’t play rugby growing up,” Stewart said.
“I’ve played a whole bunch of sports. I think seeing the girls in 2016 was a big eye-opener for me.
“Dad played football growing up, as did the rest of my family. Seeing that, they said, ‘Why don’t you try?’
“So I finally got there in 2018 and played a tournament and never looked back.”
Australia and Scotland will face off on Saturday at 1pm (AEDT) with live, commercial-free coverage exclusively on Stan Sport.
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