Emu Park's Samartha Leisha: “I didn’t think about the injury, I just played footy.”
Emu Park's Samartha Leisha: “I didn’t think about the injury, I just played footy.”

Player’s incredible comeback from spinal injury

RUGBY LEAGUE: Samartha Leisha has made a triumphant return to rugby league, overcoming what many feared could be a career-ending injury.

The hard-working second rower was instrumental in the Emu Park Emus claiming a fourth straight victory at the Warba Wangarunya carnival in Rockhampton at the weekend.

It was a memorable victory for Leisha who was playing for the first time since fracturing a vertebrae in a Rockhampton fixture game in April last year.

The significance of the moment was not lost on the Queensland and Indigenous All Stars representative.

mu Park co-captain Samartha Leisha (centre) comes in to support teammate Patrice Chambers in the women’s grand final against the FNQ Stingers at the Warba Wangarunya carnival on Sunday. Photo: Jann Houley
mu Park co-captain Samartha Leisha (centre) comes in to support teammate Patrice Chambers in the women’s grand final against the FNQ Stingers at the Warba Wangarunya carnival on Sunday. Photo: Jann Houley

“This is very special,” she said after the team’s 22-6 win over FNQ Stingers in Sunday’s grand final.

“I was a little bit nervous but I just took it on. I didn’t think about the injury, I just played footy.”

A mother of five, Leisha said it was a long, hard road back but she was driven by a desire to play the game she loves again and by the incredible support she received from the football community.

“It took eight months for me to recover,” she said.

“It took me about a month to get back on my feet properly again. I couldn’t walk without assistance.

What followed was a strict regime of physiotherapy and exercise and whenever the going got tough Leisha was buoyed by the good wishes that flowed from across the country.

“The support was tremendous.

Chantelle Dodd scores the FNQ Stingers’ only try in Sunday’s grand final against Emu Park. Photo: Jann Houley
Chantelle Dodd scores the FNQ Stingers’ only try in Sunday’s grand final against Emu Park. Photo: Jann Houley

“Emu Park was incredible and I also received support from other clubs that I’ve played for, and players and coaches.

“Everybody involved anywhere I played sent their thoughts and prayers.

“They’re happy to see me back on the field – and I’m glad to be back too.”

Leisha said she was getting “itchy feet” watching family and friends play league during her recovery.

But her return to the field has reignited her dream of making it to the NRLW.

“Last year, before the incident, I was hoping to make the NRLW but the injury meant I couldn’t fulfil that dream,” she said.

“That’s still a goal to make the NRLW in the future but for now I’m going to trial for the Capras and see how it goes there and what the development around that will be.”

Emu Park's Rima Butler is met by some solid FNQ Stingers defence.
Emu Park's Rima Butler is met by some solid FNQ Stingers defence.

The Capras women will go into camp this weekend at CQUniversity, with more than 55 players vying for a place in the initial 30-member squad.

The Capras will be one of eight teams contesting the inaugural QRLW which starts in March.

Coach Amanda Ohl was at the carnival at the weekend, casting a discerning eye over some of the squad hopefuls.

She is looking forward to the group coming together in Rockhampton this weekend.

“We will be testing their fitness, their agility, their strength, their speed and then we will look at their tackle technique and their ability with the ball,” she said.

The Capras women make their first appearance in a trial against Souths Logan Magpies in the curtain raiser to the Capras versus Brisbane Broncos game at Browne Park on Saturday, February 15.

WARBA WANGARUNYA CARNIVAL RESULTS

Men’s grand final: Emu Park d Tunuba Dakani 22-18

Men’s Player of the Carnival: Ryan Franks (Emu Park)

Women’s grand final: Emu Park d FNQ Stingers 22-6

Women’s Player of the Carnival: Sarah Field (Emu Park)



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