Jaime Chapman grew up idolising Charlotte Caslick, Jessica Sergis and Maddie Studdon.
On Saturday, the 18-year-old will play with and against her heroes when she makes her NRLW debut on the wing for St George Illawarra against Caslick’s Sydney Roosters in Canberra.
Olympic Sevens gold medallist Caslick is also making her NRLW debut and coming up against the Tricolours superstar five-eighth is a dream come true for Chapman, who is one of Australia’s most exciting prospects in both rugby league and rugby sevens.
“When I got into Burraneer Sevens, Charlotte was one of my biggest inspirations, she came to all our competitions and tournaments when I was younger,” said Chapman, who will run out alongside Sergis and Studdon for the Dragons.
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“I did a Sharks academy and Jess Sergis was there, back in 2017, she was such a big inspiration, now I get to play next to her.”
Last year, Chapman steered Australia to victory in the World Schoolgirl Sevens and was named in the team of the tournament.
She was also NSW’s fullback in the under-18 State of Origin clash and carved up for the Cronulla Sharks in NSWRL’s under-18s girls Tarsha Gale Cup.
At this stage, Chapman is set on pursuing rugby league.
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“l love both sports with a passion, but rugby league, it’s my soft spot. I’ve played it since I was a kid and I feel like I’ve got more knowledge in that game” Chapman said.
Since its inception in 2017, over 1000 girls have been part of NSWRL Tarsha Gale Cup squads — 12 of which are currently listed with NRLW squads.
Chapman played in both the Tarsha Gale Cup and the Harvey Norman NSW Women‘s Premiership this year and believes both competitions helped fast-tracked her development.
The livewire also credits her father Dave for supporting her ever since she started playing footy as a five-year-old at their local club the Kurnel Stingrays.
“Dad is my biggest inspiration for footy, I’m so excited that he’ll be there to watch me,” Chapman said.
“We’ve been through a lot together, he’s always been by my side, we have a very close bond … he’s so excited that he’s cried a few times.”
After a challenging and uncertain year – during which she found herself without any work or footy – Chapman is itching to make her mark on the NRLW.
“I work in a gym in Cronulla, so I was out of work for a few months, I had a pretty hard time,” Chapman said.
“But having that hope that the NRLW might be on, it kept me training every day. Daniel Lacey (Dragons NRLW coach) would call me to check in too, that kept me going.”
NSWRL General Manager of Football Barrie-Jon Mather said that the increasing number of Tarsha Gale graduates joining NRLW squads prove that NSW’s pathway to the elite national competition is stronger than ever.
“It (Tarsha Gale Cup) has been in place since 2017, we are just now beginning to see some of the fruits of it, it’s been a really important step for those girls to go from a community competition to a representative competition,” Mather said.
“It prepares them for the Harvey Norman (NSW Women’s Premiership) and then the NRLW competition after that.”