Filomina Hanisi went to her first Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership game when she was 16 to watch her idol Simaima Taufa play and three years later she is now sharing a room with her in preparation for the Harvey Norman Women’s State of Origin.
Hanisi, 19, was chosen in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Origin 20-player squad to face Queensland on Friday November 13 at Sunshine Coast Stadium after representing the NSW Under-18’s side last year.
“We had a few sessions at the NSWRL Centre of Excellence during the year and I thought I wouldn’t get picked because (coach) Andy (Patmore) said he would pick a few just for camp,” Hanisi said.
“I was actually driving to our NRLW Mad Monday and our Mum was dropping off Maima, my sister and I and I got an email and was like, 'What the heck, I’m going to Queensland!’”
“I’m just excited and so grateful to be here - especially with all the hard work that my family has put in and all those extra trainings, missing out on parties, late nights, going out because we were always training and I feel like its slowly paying off.
“My family come to all my games with signs and everything - they’re extra like that.
“I love it, I feel like it pushes me more and they help me stay motivated.”
The prop got her start in the centres and on the wing for Parramatta City Titans in the Under-15’s competition and then played for Guildford Under-16’s in their first all-girls team - with her uncle as coach.
“We always have a game talk before we leave the house and he talks to me on the way to the game, so it’s a ritual,” Hanisi said.
“Friday nights we usually do a video session with a whiteboard and plan it and then Saturday he’ll talk to me about my game - what I’m taking onto the field and that happens every single game.
“The boys in my family always played but for me and my sisters, we were the first girls to play league because in our culture girls aren’t really supposed to play footy, it’s was always seen as a ‘man’s sport’.”
Her Rugby League career started taking off when she played for the Parramatta Eels in the Tarsha Gale competition and the next year she switched to play for St George Illawarra Dragons where she was named captain.
“At first I was nervous because I don’t really talk I just go there to train so I felt I wasn’t really a leader but I feel like the older I’m getting the more I’m maturing and slowly getting the confidence to speak up,” Hanisi said.
This year Hanisi got the chance to play alongside her sisters at Wests Tigers in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership and she also made her NRLW debut with the Sydney Roosters, playing alongside Hannah Southwell, Mel Howard, Corban McGregor and Taufa - who are all in NSW camp with her.
“I was pretty nervous coming here because I’ve always watched these girls playing on TV, so I never imagined being in camp with them and training with them,” she said.
The player she aspires most to be like is NSW workhorse Taufa, who has acted like a mentor for the 19-year-old throughout the NRLW season and now in the biosecurity bubble at Novotel Twin Waters as her roommate.
“I used to go to Maima’s games but I didn’t really know her, I just went as a fan,” Hanisi said.
“She played middle and we play middle as well - her workmate is so crazy.
“At first I was shy with her but now I feel like I’ve gotten close with her.
“I love it because she’s always honest with me about what I’m doing wrong or what I can improve on - whether its defence, attack, she pulls me up about it.”