Ingram's dream about to come true with Raiders

It might be just over a week until the National Rugby League Women's Premiership kicks off but Ahlivia Ingram still can't quite believe that she is part of the inaugural Canberra Raiders squad.

"I really don't think I have brought it all together yet," said Ingram.

"It's unreal, has been so huge and it 100 percent came out of nowhere.

"If you had told me this time last year that I was going to be playing NRLW this year I wouldn't have believed you."

It's almost an understatement to say that Ingram has had a big last 12 months. In the last year the local Canberra junior has been part of the NRL's Indigenous Women's Academy camp at the Australian Institute of Sport. She was then selected to play in the Prime Minister's XIII team that played against Papua New Guinea in September and then took part in the Indigenous Women's All Stars team earlier this year.

For Ingram, being part of the Indigenous Women's Academy camp was significant as it was a chance not just to improve her footy, but to learn more about the way her body worked too as a big focus of the camp was closing the gap in research between men and women in the athletic performance space.

"I loved being with the other women for those five weeks and we really became like a family," said Ingram.

"We were coached by the top coaches, we found out about our bodies and our menstrual cycle and how to train effectively when we aren't feeling our best.

"So much of the data in this space is about men and so it was great to see so many coaches and scientists invested in us.

"It also showed what you can get out of female athletes when you invest in them. The female body isn't just 'women's business', as female athletes it can only help us to know how our bodies work."

At that camp, Ingram also had the opportunity to meet Australian Jillaroos coach, Brad Donald. He came into camp with a jersey signed by the Jillaroos and signalled that he was looking for women out of that camp that could play in the Prime Minister's XIII team. The women then had five weeks to prepare before Donald came back in the last week of camp.

"As soon as I saw that jersey, I was hungry for it," said Ingram.

"When Mal Meninga came in and announced the girls that were going, I cried; I thought he was lying to me.

"All that hard work and sacrifice, not just by me, but by all of us because it takes a whole team to get you there, it paid off.

"The hardest part was that it took a long time to announce the team so I had to keep a secret for a couple of weeks.

During preparation for the match, Ingram also had the chance to meet one of her rugby league idols.

"When we got off the plane we went straight into photos and Steph Hancock was fixing my hair," said Ingram.

"I couldn't believe she was standing in front of me because she is my biggest idol.

"That whole experience was like walking on a dream."

Now, Ingram is focused on her next challenge which is being part of the Raiders inaugural NRLW team.

"We haven't been together as a squad for very long, but we are already so close," said Ingram.

"There isn't one person that I can't have a conversation with; I'm speaking to one person but I could so easily be having the conversation with the person behind me.

Ingram is part of the next generation of women that are coming into the NRLW with the benefit of a full pathway. Ingram was part of the Raiders inaugural Tarsha Gale Cup team and will now be part of their inaugural NRLW team.

"I'm so proud to be playing for the Raiders as part of their inaugural NRLW team, but it has been a journey to get to where I am and I want to continue that journey with the Raiders," said Ingram.

"This season I want to continue my development and I never take for granted the opportunity to wear any jersey.

"I want to be here as long as I can, keep developing the Raiders family that I am part of and continue to be positive and strong in the person that I am."