Part of a contingent of English players keen to make their mark in the NRLW this season, North Queensland Cowboys recruit Fran Goldthorp is excited to be Down Under – but not quite as excited as her parents.
“My parents actually booked their flights before I booked mine [to come to Australia] so they're going to be here for the first three games and then they have to go back,” Goldthorp, who hails from Leeds, said.
“But honestly, that's so typical from them. [At the time], my visa was getting held up, so I was ‘you're going to be out here before I am!’”
A breakout star for England during the Rugby League World Cup last year, the talented fullback caught the eye of a number of NRLW clubs looking to find players for the expanded competition, including Cowboys coach Ben Jeffries, who saw her firsthand when his PNG Orchids team faced off against the English in the pool stages of the tournament.
“Fran is a dual international who will bring experience and composure to our spine alongside Kirra Dibb and Emma Manzelmann,” Jeffries said.
“Watching Fran throughout the World Cup last year, she was one of England’s standout players, who is very dynamic and loves to have the ball in her hand.”
As a new team, the Cowboys have recruited players from far and wide, and while Goldthorp is the only player to arrive from England, the team are represented by a variety of cultures – including a cohort of Orchids – who have all combined to develop their own unique vibe within the squad.
“There's so many cultures; we've got some of the Fijians have come over as well, so we had a culture day the other day just to make people aware that there's so many different backgrounds [in the team],” Goldthorp said.
“So many people have come in … there's so many different cultures that you probably don't necessarily know about just from the face value of speaking to someone. I think it definitely allowed us all to come together a bit more and just experience what people have come through to be here.
“I think that definitely helps going back on the pitch as well, because that trust is there more.
“But it's been great. Me personally, I'm just British, my family are British, there's not really much more to it, but hearing other people's stories, it’s so nice to hear.
“And for me, it's been great, because I'm just thrown into this weird environment.
“People don't know what I'm saying [due to my accent], I don't know what they're saying, so to me, it's been great learning the lingo of people.
“For example, we were running up Castle Hill the other week and I had my shorts on and my boots on and we were set up to do the 1200 metres, because the coaching staff didn't want us to know that we were running up Castle Hill. And then they went ‘go put your joggers on’ and joggers to me is trackies, so I was like, ‘you want me to burn alive? You want me to get heat stroke by putting them on?’
“I was asking one of the girls, ‘why are we putting our joggers on? We're just going to die’ and she was ‘why are you going to die? We're putting flat shoes on,’ so I was like, ‘oh, it means shoes’ and I think just like little things like that have been funny to experience.”
Match: Titans v Cowboys
Round 1 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
While the Cowboys will travel to the Gold Coast to take on the Titans in Round 1, Goldthorp said she was looking forward to playing at home, with the players already feeling embraced by North Queensland fans.
“It's been so nice, even the other day, we were walking back to our accommodation and there were people going, ‘we're so glad to have the women's team’ and just little things like that,” Goldthorp said.
“It's nice that you have the support and it’s just an amazing feeling that people are already back you in and we haven't even started yet.
“I think that's actually so much bigger and better as well, because there's people from North Queensland who are born and bred in the team.
"I think that's amazing to give that back to the fans that produced these players and now they're playing on a biggest stage.”