She’s been playing rugby for less than six months but South Australia’s Caitlin Stanley already has her sights set on a gold jersey.
The netball convert exploded onto the representative scene in 2023, debuting for the Black Falcons against ACT Brumbies in a Super W trial before earning selection in the Rising Stars squad for Round 2 of the Aon 7s in Narrabri last weekend.
It’s a rapid rugby rise for Stanley, who has gone from Burnside club debutant to facing the likes of Aussie superstars Charlotte Caslick and Faith Nathan in a matter of months.
But after this taste of top-flight XVs and 7s, there’s no doubt the 21-year-old has found her calling.
“I was playing netball at quite a high level and made the Australian Development squad a few years back but one day I just realised I wasn’t interested anymore,” Stanley said.
“I realised I was more excited to play against certain people and challenge myself rather than actually play netball so I quit and focused on getting really fit.
“My boyfriend at the time played rugby and I’d always thought it was a silly sport but I ended up going down to play a sevens tournament last year, started training with the girls for a couple of weeks from there and my competitive instincts kicked in.
“I ended up with The University of Adelaide Romas (who compete in the National Uni7s) after being spotted at a sevens tournament - that’s where I’ve done most of my learning – and since then I’ve been lucky enough to play 7s and 15s and be selected in Black Falcons and Rising Stars.
"Quitting netball and moving to rugby was the best decision ever for me - I absolutely love it."
Stanley’s first two representative tours were eye-opening, to say the least.
The outside back found herself in an entirely different league with Super W and Aussie Sevens stars running riot against her sides in both formats.
“Honestly, I found (playing a Super W trial) – we had girls saying they’d played Super W and overseas, saying they’d played for 12-13 years – but that fear I think came from a place of wanting to prove myself and play well.
“Coming from playing against some of the best in my state to a Super W team and then onto Rising Stars was a massive jump and I learned so much just from being there and watching everyone play as well as getting on the field.
“There was this moment when I was on the bus to Narrabri and found out Charlotte Caslick and the Aussie girls and just went wow, this is my opportunity to play in the big leagues.
Watching international stars Sariah Paki and Lily Dick from both sideline and as an opposing player was a particular highlight for Stanley, who says she’s determined to emulate her on-field rivals ahead of a golden decade for Australian rugby.
“Just watching the way Sariah played and looking at how strong and athletic Lily was got me thinking I want to do the same, I want to be able to do this,” Stanley said.
“I’m happy to go wherever rugby takes me to get as far as I can - I think I’m a pretty fast learner and if I can be exposed to the right environment, who knows where I could end up.”
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