This article was first written for and published by NRL.com.
Botille Vette-Welsh used to sledge James Tamou for choosing Australia over New Zealand but now she can empathise after making the switch.
“I used to give James Tamou so much slack for choosing to represent Australia over New Zealand. I used to think ‘how could you’, but now I think ‘how could you not?.”
It’s one of two big decisions which have led to her lining up with the Jillaroos.
Dahlia Tahu is a name that will be unfamiliar to many rugby league fans, but she was Jillaroo No.89, played for NSW and is also the reason Vette-Welsh chose the sport over rugby union.
“Dahlia has been trying to convert me to union from league for years. It was during a 2015 Test match where I watched Teuila Fotu Moala absolutely smash Mahalia Murphy and I thought there is no way I will ever play rugby league,” says Vette-Welsh.
“But she kept at me and eventually I gave in and I think it’s probably been one of the best decisions I have ever made.”
Her other big decision was whether to declare herself eligible for the Kiwi Ferns or Jillaroos.
The Australian rugby league family around Vette-Welsh is the main reason she chose to represent Australia. Vette-Welsh had to make the choice after the NRLW grand final when Australia offered her a position in the squad.
“I love New Zealand and I am a proud Maori woman, so choosing Australia is a bit hard when you have been raised in New Zealand and taught that Australia is the enemy, but I give so much credit to Australia for the opportunities they have given me so if that means representing Australia, then I am very proud to do so,” she said.
What strikes me about Vette-Welsh is how humble she is and her passion for encouraging others to love the game as much as she does.
Vette-Welsh, who only took up the sport four years ago, credits her incredible rise this year to her Wests Tigers “sisters” and to all the Australian teams she has represented throughout her career.
She began 2019 with the newly formed Wests Tigers team and was rewarded for her performances in in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership and at the National Championships with a Blues jersey.
Vette-Welsh was surprised with her NSW selection, given she only had the chance to play one game at the National Championships in her preferred position at fullback after other appearances in unfamiliar positions like hooker and second row.
So surprised was Vette-Welsh that when she answered the phone and Blues coach Andy Patmore said “this is Andy”, her response was “I’m sure I’ve paid all my bills” thinking she was speaking to a bank rather than her future coach.
From State of Origin success, Vette-Welsh played with St George Illawarra in the Holden Women’s Premiership and also represented Australia in the World Cup 9s leading into this Friday’s Test against the Kiwi Ferns in Wollongong.
She still can’t quite believe she is playing alongside women like Isabelle Kelly and Kezie Apps who she has idolised for several years.
Vette-Welsh’s biggest fan of all is her dad who accompanied her to the Dally M Awards this year where she was nominated for Female Dally M Player of the Year. Whilst she feels slightly uncomfortable in the spotlight, her dad certainly didn’t.
“He was so proud to come to the Dally Ms with me. As soon as her found out he was going he went straight down to the mall to look at suits and asked me if there was any jewellery that I needed for my outfit,” she said.
Her dad attends all her game, goes to Wests Tigers training and even travels across to New Zealand to watch his other children play if there is an important game.
Vette-Welsh has even managed to get her dad in an Australian jersey and is working on her brother too.
On the weekend, the Jillaroos suffered their first loss in two years, falling to the Kiwi Ferns in the World Cup 9s.
“The footy we played on the weekend was incredible … but the Kiwi Ferns are a team on the rise and the loss on the weekend just makes us want it more ahead of our game on Friday.”
Perhaps Vette-Welsh’s brother can wear that green and gold jersey this Friday to cheer on his sister. I have a feeling it might suit him.