TAKING HER CHANCE: Amelia Kuk will debut for the Jillaroos in the 13-a-side game against PNG.
TAKING HER CHANCE: Amelia Kuk will debut for the Jillaroos in the 13-a-side game against PNG. NRL Photos

Kuk's PNG Homecoming

ONLY when she steps onto the field in Port Moresby will the reality of the situation truly hit Amelia Kuk.

The Papua New Guinea-born star will make her playing debut for the Jillaroos in their first-ever match against the PNG Orchids on September 23.

The last time Kuk played at that ground, she was in a PNG jersey and playing a different code.

"It will be an emotional time, but I think it will only hit me when I get there,” the Brothers centre said.

"Last time I was there I was playing rugby and in front of my home crowd, so it will be a different feeling.”

Kuk was born in the Western Highlands province of Mount Hagen, and moved to Perth in 2008 before making her way to Brisbane.

It was in Brisbane where Kuk began her rugby journey.

She represented PNG in Rugby Sevens for two years with an eye to the 2016 Olympics, but the team failed to qualify.

Kuk then switched to the 15-a-side format hoping to contest the World Cup, but again PNG did not make the cut, and she was now ineligible to play for Australia.

It left her with a difficult decision to make.

"When I played Sevens I wasn't allowed to play rep footy in rugby, so it was either spend 3-4 years only playing club footy (before the next opportunity) or play something else,” Kuk said

"I just wanted to play (rugby league) with my mates, not to really make any rep teams but then I ended up falling in love with it.”

Since her first game with Souths in the Brisbane competition last year, Kuk has made a rapid rise through the representative ranks.

She debuted for Queensland against NSW and played again in the 22-6 loss this year.

Kuk was part of the winning Auckland Nines Jillaroos team in February, and was named in the squad but did not play in the ANZAC test victory over the Kiwi Ferns in May.

It means next Saturday will mark her playing debut for the Jillaroos in the 13-a-side game.

Although Brothers captain Brittany Breayley will miss the PNG clash, Kuk will still line up alongside clubmates Ali Brigginshaw and Kody House.

She said the trio of Breayley, Brigginshaw and House had helped immensely in her transition from rugby.

"Those girls definitely helped a lot,” Kuk said.

"I played with Ali at Souths last year. When we made South East Queensland and Queensland I was playing outside of her, so it was helpful to play with each other at club level and to practise running those lines.

"I look up to Brittany, she's one of the leaders in the Jillaroos and obviously the captain for Brothers, and Kody as well has been fantastic.

Ali Birigginshaw, Amelia Kuk, Kody House and Brittney Breayley.
Ali Birigginshaw, Amelia Kuk, Kody House and Brittney Breayley.

"I'd only heard about them before we became teammates. To be able to play beside them was really good, to be part of a club with so much experience and talent.”

Another key figure in Kuk's development is Brothers co-coach and former Jillaroo Nat Dwyer.

"When I first came over to rugby league no one really taught me how to run lines properly,” Kuk said.

"Because I played centre in rugby they just chucked me in there, and I even got to rep level without really knowing how to play properly.

"At every training (Dwyer) would pull me aside and give me little hints and pieces of advice. She has been a big help to me.”

Now that she has cracked the Jillaroos side, Kuk is hoping a strong performance in Port Moresby will help cement her spot in the squad ahead of next month's World Cup.

With a host of NSW-based Jillaroos unavailable for the PNG clash with their state league grand finals on that weekend, Kuk knows she has to impress selectors in what will be a final dress rehearsal.

"Competition for spots is really high right now, so I can't shy away from this opportunity,” Kuk said.

"Everyone will be watching, and after that we go into camp with all the training and testing leading up to the World Cup.

"I just have to give it all I've got.”

Selectors will also cast an eye over the Struddy's Cup grand final today, when Brothers take on reigning premiers Burleigh.

Both sides boast a number of players pushing for World Cup selection, and Kuk knows the contest will be fierce.

"It starts this weekend against Burleigh, it's always a close contest when we verse them,” Kuk said.

"They've won the cup a few years in a row now, so it'll be a tough hit-out (today).”

Although she will run out in the green and gold next Saturday, Kuk still holds a considerable place in her heart for her home across the Arafura Sea.

"I'm over the moon for them,” Kuk said.

"When I played for PNG in the Sevens we didn't have much exposure or support.

"To see them hosting a world cup and getting sponsors is just fantastic.

"I know there's a lot of girls there who play just for the passion of playing footy, so to finally get the recognition shows the future is bright for women's rugby league in PNG.”

When asked if her family will find it difficult to split allegiances, Kuk said it was unlikely.

"I don't think they will be putting Orchids jerseys on, because I'll be playing for Australia,” she laughed.

"But I expect the whole tribe will be there to support me. I'm really excited to see everyone.”