Right after the 2020 Women’s Origin, social media feeds were filled with Maroons five-eighth Tarryn Aiken. She’s for a while been considered a champion in the Touch Football world. And now, after her second NRLW season with the Broncos and her first rugby league Origin, she’s being celebrated in rugby league for her extraordinary ability in attack.
Aiken’s Origin performance helped the Queenslanders take the game 24-18 on home soil at Suncorp Stadium, and Aiken the Nellie Doherty Medal for player of the match.
“It’s been a really exciting season,” says Aiken. “Origin was really awesome. I think that it being a home game really helped [give Queensland the edge]. When you’re on the field and you can hear the whole crowd cheering for Queensland, that lifts you.
“We obviously knew it would be a tough game but as a team we came together really fast. And obviously a lot of us had come out of the Broncos together, so that helped.
“We were in camp for two weeks, in quarantine. We couldn’t really leave the resort we were in or see anyone else so we trained two days on, one day off, for most of the camp. It allowed us to come together really well. We had really nothing else to do but talk footy, train and talk more footy.”
Aiken’s on a winning streak – her NRLW season also ending in victory. “I really love being part of the Broncos, the culture at the club is really good. As a team and squad we all just push ourselves to train as hard as we can. You’ve always just got to give 110% at every training session. To get the win with them also was awesome.”
As a kid, Aiken started out in Rugby League, and switched her focus to Touch when she reached the age when she was no longer allowed to play tackle. “I started playing League when I was, like, 5, down at Wyong. I played till under-12s when you couldn’t play any more as a girl. I’d already been playing Touch on Friday nights with my friends growing up, but once I turned 12, I played a lot more Touch.
“Touch and League are obviously different games, but there’s a lot of things that are similar about them, I love both games.”
When asked about the disruptions COVID-19 brought to the year, Aiken admits that in ways the break from sport actually helped her out. Although selected to represent Australia in Touch Football earlier in the year, in the Open Trans-Tasman squad, she was unable to take her place due to injury.
That Trans-Tasman event ended up not being able to go ahead in 2020 due to the shutdowns and travel restrictions. But lockdown helped give Aiken plenty of time to recover from surgery before the NRLW season was announced as able to go ahead.
“After I got surgery, all sport got cancelled. By the time footy was back up and running I was pretty much recovered and it was perfect timing. The shutdown meant I didn’t need to rush with my recovery so it gave me a lot of time to make sure I was 100% when I came back.”