SOME of the best gifts are often the unexpected ones. Kempsey product Simone Smith was focused on delivering her best footy for CRL Newcastle in the NSW Women's Premiership in 2019 as she returned from a knee reconstruction.
As fate would have it, she linked up with Rick Stone in the Hunter who in turn took the reins of the Sydney Roosters for the upcoming NRL Holden Women's Premiership.
Now, the 26-year-old will find herself under the continued guidance of Stone after agreeing to take her place in the tri-colours' squad for their 2019 campaign.
"He asked me if I was keen to get on board with the Roosters and my player manager got involved and he spoke to the Roosters recruitment and it all happened," Smith said.
"It's up there as one of the pinnacles of women's rugby league at the moment (playing in the NRLW) and I'm really stoked and excited.
It's a dream come true and I've always had this thought that if they had an NRL comp it would be awesome to be a part of it in the women's game.Simone Smith
"It still feels a bit surreal but once things start kicking off in a couple of weeks and pre-season starts it will all feel more real."
Port City's former league tag star admitted her strong performance for NSW Country at last month's Women's National Championships helped, although it did still come as a surprise.
"It was a bit unexpected because I didn't really have the goal that I'd be playing in the NRLW this year having come back from a knee reco," Smith said.
"My main goal was to have a good year injury free and play good footy.
"Making that rep team at the nationals in June was my first goal for the year and then everything else was a bonus."
She has some ground to make up having missed last season's competition due to injury.
"It is a platform where you can put your best foot forward and get back into the selectors' eyes to look at you getting back on deck with the Jillaroos," she said.
"It's a dream come true and I've always had this thought that if they had an NRL comp it would be awesome to be a part of it in the women's game," Smith said.
The player from Kempsey has now ticked off almost every item on her rugby league bucket list with a State of Origin appearance for New South Wales the only one to elude her.
"I'm so grateful I've got the opportunity and to be able to say I'm part of the NRLW for the second time around," she said.
"I want to take one thing at a time and hopefully I can play good footy with the Roosters."
The halfback admitted the move to Newcastle had fast-tracked her progress through the ranks.
"I'm grateful to have more opportunities down here now and I think it definitely had a helping hand in getting me a contract for the year."
Smith and the Roosters will join Brisbane, St George Illawarra and the Warriors for a four-week premiership that coincides with the men's NRL finals series in September.