IT took just one look for Jillaroos coach Brad Donald to know Corrimal gun Rikeya Horne had the tools to be one of the game’s next superstars.
In fact he was so convinced he was willing to hand her an Australian jumper for February’s Commonwealth Championships.
It followed a standout showing at the NRL women’s training camp that saw 52 players put through their paces in an effort to earn one 40 elite playing contracts on offer for the inaugural NRL women’s league that will kickoff next month.
It was enough for the 19-year-old to be hand-picked by Donald as the only non-incumbent Jillaroo selected for the nine-a-side tournament on the Gold Coast, scoring a try with her first touch in the national jumper to boot.
It made her a priority signing for the Dragons, but Horne is fully aware she still has to prove her worth at the highest level to earn the state and Test honours she’s been widely tipped for.
“I suppose it is a bit strange because I made the Jillaroos side for the Commonwealth Championships and I think a lot people just expected me to make the NSW team or the Dragons team automatically,” Horne said.
“There was a bit of pressure there but I know that’s not the way it works. I knew it was just the beginning and I needed to keep working really hard. I still remember sitting in the car and getting the phone call and it was just unreal. I had to pinch myself at the time, it was an amazing experience.
“I am going to set those goals but my focus at the moment is to play the best footy I can for the Dragons.”
Horne bagged an impressive 20 tries in 10 appearances in a premiership-winning season for Corrimal last year, while she’s managed 15 in 11 games heading into this year’s finals that kickoff this weekend.
It shows all the speed and X factor that’s seen her likened to current Jillaroos star, and fellow Illawarra product, Sam Bremner.
“I’ll take that, I’ve always looked up to Sammy,” Horne said.
“When I first started playing footy she was my favourite player, just the attitude she brings and, look at the size of her, she’s only little but she’s so tough.
“I hope to learn a lot of things from her. I’m really excited to play with her. I’ve always played against her at club footy so I’m really excited to play alongside her and learn as much as I can.”
For her part, Bremner needs no convincing when it comes to Horne’s ability to leave a mark at NRL level.
“She’s a massive talent. Speed’s a pretty lethal thing in rugby league and the best thing is is she’s still young and she’s got a lot to learn,” Bremner said.
“I say that in a way that should make the people she’s playing against fearful because. If someone’s that good and they’ve still got more to learn, it’s a scary thing.
“Some people are just born with that bit of mongrel. It’s something you can’t teach and sometimes it’s lacking in women’s sport.
“If you don’t have that competitiveness and mongrel it’s hard to instill, but Rikeya’s definitely got that.”