Hannah Southwell has more than just flirted with success in every sport she has tried, but rugby league was always her “first love”.
The 19-year-old from Cameron Park has come “full circle”, gaining selection in the NSW women’s Origin side just a few months after returning to the sport.
Southwell was named on the bench for the June 22 clash with Queensland at North Sydney Oval after impressing in NSW Country’s national championships win over NSW City on June 3.
“It was really quick,” Southwell said.
“My goal was just to make the Country team and I made that as a shadow, and a few girls got injured, so I got my opportunity in that.
“I played the final, which was awesome, but I definitely wasn’t expecting a call from the Origin coach [Ben Cross]. It was way ahead of schedule.”
The rapid rise, though, should come as no surprise.
Southwell was the W-League’s youngest ever goalkeeper in 2014 when she debuted at 15 for Newcastle.
She represented Australia at under 20s level and was in Olympic selection camps in 2016. That year she switched to rugby sevens and helped Australia’s senior team win the Oceania title.
She gained a full-time Australian rugby sevens contract but switched to league this season, playing with Newcastle in the Sydney competition.
Also a representative player in basketball, cricket, softball and touch at school, Southwell said rugby league was where it all began.
“I started with league with Kotara then Dad put me into soccer because obviously the boys got too big and I wasn’t allowed to play anymore, then after that I went to Sevens and now league, so full circle,” said Southwell, who was the Kotara Bears under-11 boys' side’s best forward in 2010.
“It was always my first love, playing league. Then I had to change over, which was a bit annoying. I went to Sevens, which was the closest thing to league. I came back as soon as they announced they were going to put more funding into the women’s game, which is really cool.”
The personal trainer, who is set to play in the NRL women’s competition, said she left rugby sevens for “a much better culture” in league.
“I was on a full-time contract but I only even got to play development games, which kind of sucked,” she said. “I was one of the younger ones and they never put us forward. That was the culture around it. They always played the Olympic girls instead of bringing the younger ones up, and I think it’s really costing them now.
“I think I’ll definitely stay in rugby league and my goal is to make the Jillaroos. I want to stick with it as long as it takes. I’m not going to jump around anymore.”
“I think the women’s rugby league is going to kick off in the next two years and really take over a couple of other sports.”
Southwell has played predominantly as a back-rower this season but was prepared for a utility role with the NSW side.
“When I went to country championships, they put me in as a prop and I’ve never played prop before, but I really enjoyed it,” she said.
“It was rough and tough but I got a good run, and it went from there.
“The coach has said he wants to give me a good run and I might play lock, second-rower or centre, as a utility, so it should be good.
“Origin has always been a big game at our household, so it’s a real honour.”
Southwell joins Newcastle teammates Bec Young, Isabelle Kelly and Holli Wheeler in the NSW Origin camp on Monday at Wollongong.