Biddle is loving the Sharks, longing for a Warriors return

In New Zealand, the two most popular sports are rugby union and netball.

For Cronulla Sharks player Annessa Biddle, growing up it was all about netball. But in high school she had the opportunity to play rugby league for the first time.

"I didn't know the sport at all," said Biddle.

"I thought that as long as I could catch the ball and run, that I would be ok."

It took Biddle some time to learn how to play the game, but it was when she started playing club footy for the Otara Scorpions that her passion for the sport developed and her teammates and coaches realised that the sky was the limit for Biddle.

"A lot of my friends and coaches told me that it should be my aim to make it onto the big stage and play in the NRLW, but I didn't believe in myself as much as they believed in me," said Biddle.

"It wasn't until earlier this year when our first club game was televised that a commentator reached out and asked if I wanted to play NRLW.

"It was then that I thought 'wow, I am actually going to do this' and here I am now, playing another level of footy."

In that moment, a dream to play NRLW may have crystallised for Biddle, but after growing up in New Zealand and never having travelled before, the decision to come to Australia and play for the Cronulla Sharks in the NRLW as a 21 year old was hard.

"This is my first big travel and it's not just travel, it's a move too, so being away from my family is definitely hard," said Biddle.

"But I am roommates with Harata Butler who I knew from back home and that has helped me so much; just knowing someone here.

"But the Sharks are such a diverse team and they have been so welcome, so even though the first few weeks were hard, having them around me makes me remember my teammates back home and it has made it a lot easier.

Although Biddle is away from her family, they tune in every week to watch her play. Biddle has been one of the standouts for the Sharks in the opening weeks of the competition, so there has been plenty to cheer about.

"They honestly love it so much," said Biddle.

"I talk to them after every single game, they are my biggest fans and they never lie to me so they definitely love seeing me on the big stage.

"They also love seeing me around people who have the same dream as I do."

Biddle is thoroughly enjoying her time at the Cronulla Sharks. Butler has become like an aunty to her and she has also developed a strong friendship with her neighbour Fiona Jahnke. But Biddle is hopeful that as the NRLW continues to expand, that the New Zealand Warriors will be in a position to once again have a team in the competition.

"Even though the opportunity I have here now is incredible, I can have that same opportunity from back home," said Biddle.

"I want to see the Warriors come back in the next expansion and I am aiming to play for the Warriors team when they come back.

"It's so I can be at home, but continue to play against the best players in the world.

"It would be a great opportunity for the women in New Zealand and create a clear pathway."

We have seen this happen this year, with women choosing to stay local and play for clubs like the Canberra Raiders and North Queensland Cowboys, not only allowing these women to stay home while they play footy, but also opening up and assisting with the development of new pathways.

For Biddle, she is also focused on making sure she takes advantage of this opportunity, so she can take what she has learnt back home to New Zealand.

"I want to develop my footy IQ and to know and gain as much knowledge as I can from my teammates, coaching staff and management," said Biddle.

"If I was to get picked up next year, that knowledge would help so much.

"I want to bring it back home too; being over here in Australia and gaining that knowledge I want to share it with those that want to follow the same path I have.

"There is so much talent in New Zealand and the local areas and communities can benefit from it too."