They say good things come to those who wait and in the case of Marita Shoulders, it's very good things indeed.
It's playing in the inaugural women's NSW Police Cup grand final, being named the women's player of the carnival and earning 2022 NSW Country selection.
It's doing all that after 20 years in the job and as a 40-year-old who had, by some people been "written off as too old".
It meant it was an emotional week at Tamworth's Scully Park for the talented front rower and Mudgee native.
"There was a photo of Sarah [Laughlin, co-captain] and I running out on to ground, like we've both been in for over 20 years and you could just see how happy we were, you could see the emotion, how amazing it was that we were finally there doing it," Shoulders said.
"It was great, there was a lot of emotion in it. Actually when I saw that photo there was a bit of a tear."
Shoulders was a member of the Country South Steelers side that joined four other women's outfits in Tamworth.
Shoulders, who last season played in the first women's police NSW City versus Country match, was delighted to be involved.
"To have this tournament, I think we may have changed a few opinions on the game of women's rugby league," she said.
"Five out of eight clubs got women's teams and our Steelers boys, they were amazing, they were 110 percent behind it all the way. They could see the value in it.
"The girls these days have got an amazing future, hopefully a lot of these girls stick with it. A majority of our team hadn't played before."
Shoulders headed into the tournament off the back of a premiership winning campaign with the open Panorama Platypi in the Western Women's Rugby League competition.
While she already had an impressive rugby union resume, that league experience helped with Shoulders' confidence.
"It definitely transferred across, I had more of an idea what was going on, I knew what to expect and to preserve myself when I needed to so I could make the impact when required," she said.
Playing alongside Forbes duo Maggie Townsend and Bianca Wright as well as Bathurst officer Giamia Radice, who had her campaign come to an early end after injuring a hamstring, the Steelers began with a 14-4 win over Country North.
They backed that up with a 6-4 result against the Macarthur Bulls, Shoulders scoring for the Steelers.
Though then falling to the Bankstown Giants (6-0) and Eastern Suburbs Wombats (6-0), the Steelers had done enough to qualify for the decider.
They came up against the Giants, a side which hadn't conceded a point during the round games.
Though the Steelers tested their rivals' defence, they couldn't crack it either. The Giants emerged 12-0 victors.
"That didn't really reflect the game. I think we had the ball for most of the first half, we just couldn't capitalise," Shoulders said.
"They got one good try on us right on half-time. We had them rattled but most of them were OzTag players, so they had very good ball skills and running lines."
While missing out on lifting the cup, Shoulders still finished the tournament with a special trophy. It was for the women's player of the carnival - an award decided by a 3,2,1 vote after every match.
"I felt I played pretty well, I think I played some of the best footy I've played," Shoulders said.
"It was pretty good, especially as an old girl to step up and get that. I actually stuck a few good tackles and all my carries were 10 metres or more.
"One of the girls reminded me before the final that I hadn't dropped a ball all tournament and there'd been a lot of dropped ball because it was wet and miserable."
Though it's not the first time Shoulders has picked up a prestigious individual accolade - in 2018 she was named NSW Country Rugby Union Women's Championship player of the tournament - this trophy was one she relished.
"I think this one has a bit more emotion to it because it's taken so long and after last season when they didn't really want me as part of the Country team," she said.
"It was nice to show I deserved to be there."
Shoulders will get the chance to play more representative league this year, having been named in the 2022 NSW Police women's Country side.
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