A young, exciting talent on the football field, Theophelia Mosby-Nona’s style is simple – run hard and true – but it’s clear talking to the 17-year-old that it’s more than just physical strength powering the senior student.
A softly-spoken teen with an infectious personality and huge athletic potential, ‘Theo’ is a barnstorming prop who’s carrying the pride of her family and tiny island home in the Torres Strait with her as she paves the way for future Torres Strait Islander women to follow their rugby league dreams.
From Yorke Island (Masig Island), nearly 1,200km directly north of Townsville, Theo attends boarding school at NRL Cowboys House, juggling her important year 12 studies at Kirwan State High School with her sporting goals and a burning ambition to play in the NRLW.
And that’s a goal she’s well on track to achieve, selected to play in the inaugural Australian Schoolgirls rugby league team alongside players from across the country.
It’s a big step away from home life, but one she’s taken in her stride.
“From where I’ve come from, I never would have thought I’d come this far,” Theo said.
“Back at home we don’t get a lot of opportunity, but there’s definitely a lot of talent up in the Islands with little people just always wanting to be playing rugby league.
“My little sister, she plays fullback, she’s playing Blackhawks so she’s into her footy.
“My older brother played too but had to move back home for work, and my little brother the same; they all love playing football so it runs in the family.”
Theo’s journey has taken her across the state, having started playing at age 12 on Thursday Island before being selected to captain the Ipswich side.
From there she moved to Townsville, making numerous rep teams including City/Country, North Queensland Toyota Gold Stars Academy and just weeks ago, the Under 18s Queensland Schoolgirls Origin side.
Her Australian selection will offer up the opportunity to travel and play internationally across several fixtures in September this year.
The introduction of the Australian Schoolgirls side is another massive step for women’s rugby league through expansion at the elite level and participation rates in schools on the rise, with Theo at the forefront of the historic first-ever side.
It means she’s paving the way for future generations to follow in her footsteps.
Theo’s doing it all a long way from home during her formative teen years while boarding at NRL Cowboys House, a unique facility providing supported accommodation for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, enabling them to access quality secondary education opportunities in Townsville.
She’s working hard to ensure she graduates year 12 to go on to study nursing at TAFE, a pathway she’s chosen because she loves helping others as she did for her family back home.
“I know footy’s a good thing, but it isn’t always going to be there so I’m trying to make sure I focus on school and get a job so that when footy finishes I can go back to it – but rugby league is definitely the dream,” she said.
“One day I want to take it (nursing) back home and help up there with all the other families.”
Reflecting on NRL Women in League Round, Theo has two key female role models that inspire her – number 1 fan, her mum, and fellow Gold Stars player and Torres Strait Islander, Tahlulah Tillet.
“Tahlulah, she’s been a big sister and a big role model to me, always helping me out and really having my back,” Theo said.
“But I always look up to my mum who’s been right there behind me since day one.
“She’s always proudly supporting me throughout it all, and I really look up to her and want to make her proud.”
Now in its 16th year, NRL Women in League Round celebrates the contribution women make to rugby league, and those who are playing their part to create a more equal future at all levels of the game.
The Cowboys will auction their unique Women in League jerseys, worn in Round 19 and 20, with proceeds to the Cowboys Community Foundation, supporting NRL Cowboys House – the auction opens at 12pm, Monday 1 August at cowboys.com.au/auction.