NRLW hopeful Katalina Vave (Picture: Parramatta Eels, Design by Madeline Irwin)

The rugby league season is in full swing. Lacing up the boots, and putting on the jersey, adrenaline courses through her body, the flashes of all the hard work she has done flowing through her mind as she runs onto the field. It’s all led to this. 

The journey to playing rugby league professionally has been far from easy for Katalina Vave. Growing up in Western Sydney, she fell in love with playing sport from a young age, playing soccer first and then switching to playing rugby league for the Minchinbury Jets.

Playing rugby league from the age of twelve, she would ultimately earn a selection on the Parramatta Eels Tarsha Gale team between 2020 and 2022.

Coming off another season playing for the Wentworthville Magpies in the Harvey Norman Woman’s Premiership competition, Vave can play anywhere from the wing and centre positions to the back row in the forward pack.

Her consistency in the Tarsha Gale Cup competition found her a spot in the 2022 Parramatta Junior League representative team of the year, which considers everyone coming up through Parramatta’s pathways.

Katalina Vave spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum about being selected in the Parramatta Junior League representative team, getting her nursing degree at university and her aspirations to make it at NRLW level.

“My main goal is to finish uni and know I have a nursing degree,” Vave revealed to The Inner Sanctum. 

“To be honest, my goal after nursing was to go back and study para-medicine or I will just stay and finish the nursing degree.

“If women want to pursue footy as a full-time career, it’s not possible. It just depends on the time I have and if I eventually make it to the NRLW. I’m just still trying to figure out my life.”

Currently training through the week to play on weekends, Vave spoke about what a typical week looks like for a player who’s still finding their way in the NRLW pathway.

“I train on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and play on the weekends,” she said.

“We usually get to training around 5.30pm for a 6pm start, doing stretches and warming up before and we finish training around 8 pm.

“Wednesdays is a full contact session, going through set plays and practising our attack. On Fridays, we have a captains run and sets we also have film study during one of our sessions in the week.”

Being accepted into the elite athlete’s program at Western Sydney University, she is able to figure out her schedule and adjust her timetable depending on her commitments before the semester starts.

Vave goes to the campus for classes two days on campus per week, while also working at a restaurant near her home a few days a week, paired with a second job as a student ambassador at the university. She prides herself on her hard work, something which has got her where she is in life and rugby league.

“[Hard work] is part of the sport, part of the territory sports at that level comes with. People make mistakes on the field,” Vave said.

“Sometimes it’s not easy [but] I still have to try.”

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Vave was part of winning rugby league teams up until the state level between 2016 and 2018 for St Agnes Catholic High School. She was also one of the inaugural year 12 school captains in 2020 and won awards for her leadership and for being the ‘ideal student.’

A lot of athletes usually exert confidence and downplay it with attempted humbleness, however while talking about her experience with her journey to making it into the NRL, she promotes her peers more than herself.

In particular, she spoke highly of Sarah Togatuki, who recently just signed for the Wests Tigers NRLW team. 

“The girls can put on some big hits, I remember getting tackled really hard by Sarah Togatuki from the North Sydney Bears, she’s a really solid player,” Vave said.

“Everyone is trying to make it. There’s not a single person on my team that doesn’t want to have a crack, everybody is there for the sake of getting a chance, it’s competitive.”

Explaining how much it means for her to be in the spot she is in, there’s not a negative bone in her body, having love for everyone, and gratitude for everything.

“It’s actually crazy, it’s so cool being around them,” Vave said excitedly.

“Playing with them has been amazing because they have had experience at the top level and have been there and done it all.

“Knowing how it feels and having some extent of the experience training and competing against them, playing in the Harvey Norman competition has given me more knowledge on what needs to be done on the field.”

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