FOR the longest time Marita Shoulders thought she would never get the chance to wear the iconic maroon and yellow of New South Wales Country - now she's not only got that opportunity but is thinking about Australian colours too.
This Sunday at Leichhardt Oval the Bathurst officer will line up in the NSW Country Women's Police side as they do battle with their City rivals.
It's the second year the talented prop has gained Country selection, but the process this time around makes getting the nod more special.
Rather than players being picked on their previous sporting exploits as was the case in 2021, this year Shoulders got the nod after her efforts at the inaugural women's NSW Police Cup.
She not only shone for the Country South Steelers, but was named female player of the carnival.
It proved that the 40-year-old had what it takes and it now has her dreaming of something bigger.
"It's way more exciting this year because everyone is there on their own merits, we've all earned our right to be there, the quality of players is the next step up," she said.
"I'm a little bit fitter and stronger than what I was previously, it's been a big motivator to get selection again and show them that age is just a number and that I can play football.
"We've been fighting for this for years, no-one wanted us, they nearly dropped us last year, but they've realised the women's game is on a big drive and they announced the other day they'll be picking an Australian team.
"Yeah, that's a goal now, there's got to be something to earn a retirement from," she added with a laugh.
Though women's police rugby league representative teams are only a new concept, Shoulders had prior experience in the sport.
She previously represented Group 10 and also spent time playing in Sydney. But a NSW Country jumper was something she always longed for.
"I've always wanted to represent Country, when I was playing my initial league rep I was always playing for Sydney and I hated playing for Sydney. I'm a country girl and I want to represent the country," she said.
"To now have that opportunity, yeah, it's great.
"To be included into the New South Wales Rugby League program this year too is great, it shows they've accepted that it is a pathway, that it can take you places."
As Shoulders mentioned, the women's police showdown is part of a big weekend of City versus Country games. There will be a men's police clash, under 16s, under 18s, open men and women as well as a wheelchair rugby league match.
Like all those who will be wearing Country colours, Shoulders' goal is to beat City.
"We won the first game last year [8-6], but the Country men have never won it, they have never won the police City versus Country. So for the first women's Country team to win was a big thing," she said.
"We want to reverse the table on that one, we want the Country women to win against City every year."
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