Put a football in her hands, and Lillyann Mason is a force to be reckoned with.
The Red Bend Catholic College student has been named in rugby league club Penrith Panthers’ Tarsha Gale squad and also chosen for the NSW Rugby sevens squad.
The Penrith Panthers selection is particularly exciting: while Red Bend has had a number of young male players picked up by the NRL, Lillyann is the first female player to attract the attention of the club.
The Tarsha Gale Cup, a nine-week Under-18s nine-a-side tournament, was contested for the first time this year.
When the contest was announced, NSW Rugby League said it was the start of a five-year plan to introduce a complete women’s representative pathways program in NSW, with a view to launch a competition in line with the Intrust Super Premiership NSW in the next three to five years.
For Lil, selection means a busy off season ahead, with plenty of travel for training.
Lil has had a busy winter, capping off a strong representative season with a grand final win for the Redfern All Blacks women’s team in the Koori Knockout.
She was named player of the match after scoring the winning try in the game, played at Leichhardt Oval and televised on NITV.
There were a number of reasons that was a highlight for her, including the fact she was playing in open competition.
“It’s the first grand final I’ve ever won,” Lillyann said.
The Redfern All Blacks were down a couple of points with the clock ticking down when Lillyann was passed the ball and busted through a tackle to put it down over the line.
The Year 11 student is a utility player and reckons she currently has “the best of both worlds” with league and union options both looking open to her.
She’s been a feature on the footy field since the junior grades, following sister Danielle’s footsteps into the sport as a child, then taking a break before returning to play league tag for a couple of years.
She’s looking forward to both the training opportunities and the higher level of competition that are opening up to her.
“I can play in backs, play in forwards, it doesn’t matter,” she said.
Her preferred position?
“On the field,” she smiles. “As long as I’m out there, I’m happy.”