Year 11 James Nash student Keeley Jackson has been scouted for the Queensland Academy of Sport union development team, after being eyed by development scouts since her crossover from league in 2020.
Keeley joined the JNSHS rugby program in a centre position in Year 10 when Nash coach Mr Clint Morrison noticed her natural ball skills and speed.
Keeley, who has held positions in the U17s Stingrays and Gympie Hammers, has had a quick plight to union fame after being selected for the QAS 16s –19s development program in early 2022.
Her selection will give her the opportunity to train twice per week in Brisbane with Queensland's top 20 most elite female union players for potential selection in the U19s Barbarians.
Keeley said the selection letter was a life-changing moment she wasn't expecting.
“It was so exciting to open that letter – my mum cried," she said.
“I thought at this point, I'd still be playing at a school club league level. My dream was always to play in the NRLW. I would watch that on the TV and I always thought 'this is what I want to do with my life'.
“I really have Mr Morrison to thank. He really introduced to the school side of union and he was one of the people who helped me learn the rules and the way the game works.
“I had no previous union experience before Nash rugby – I knew I was fast but had never trained specifically for it".
Keeley will now undergo personal training at Kawana twice per week, as well as training at the QAS Ballymore facilities on Mondays and Wednesdays between 6.30pm and 8pm after school.
She says she will be working hard to maintain a competitive body weight, alongside weight training and a strict diet to give herself the best possible chances of upward selection.
“I am just so lucky that mum has her own business and can help me get to training. It is going to be a few busy few months, but this is what I want to do".
Keeley also acknowledges coaches Jason and Rod from the Gympie Hammers for building her confidence in the sport.
“They held my hand and got me to where I am – they made me work for it and have been so supportive," she said.
To other young females wanting to get into the sport, Keeley says “just give it a crack".
“Have a crack, get in and don't be worried about anyone judging you.
“I used to be so shy and rugby has brought out my confidence. The rugby community in Gympie is one big family".
When she's not on the field, Keeley is working on certificates in outdoor recreation and tourism at school, or helping out as a barista for her mum's catering business.
James Nash SHS is very excited to see Keeley succeed in 2022.