MAHALIA Murphy started playing rugby league in a tough school.
"I was 11 and it was boys and girls, street football," she said of those Doonside days.
"I was pretty tough, a real little tomboy."
Murphy swapped the street for a running track, winning an athletics scholarship to The Hills Sports High School.
She was a versatile performer: sprints, broad jump, high jump, triple jump . .
Put it all together — speed, athleticism and toughness — and what have you got?
You've got a 19-year-old selected for the Indigenous All Stars women's rugby league team that will play at Suncorp Stadium on February 9.
Yes, that match will be the curtain-raiser to the main game, featuring indigenous poster-player Johnathan Thurston and the rest of the NRL cream before 50,000 fans.
"It's pretty exciting," was Murphy's understated response.
She was picked in October and has been to Queensland for squad training under head coach Dennis Moran, a former Parramatta and London Broncos player.
She's also joined the other NSW players for training at Redfern Oval under Dean Widders, a former Parramatta, Roosters and Souths player and a respected figure in indigenous affairs.
"He's been good, really, really good; he's taught us a lot," said Murphy, speaking in the manner of someone who has found a tutor with a gateway to knowledge.
The road to that gateway hasn't been straightforward, however.
There was no football after those early pick-up games in the street; no local rugby league teams for girls.
Murphy's re-entry to football came when Penrith started a rugby union team three seasons ago.
The centre/winger/fullback has since topped the 50-try mark and Penrith made the semi-finals for the first time last year.