Kody House was all set to draw her decade-long rugby league career to a close at the end of last year, content on finishing with a satisfying 2021 season which saw her produce some career-best form and a grand final appearance.
However, a last-minute offer last month to be part of one more NRLW campaign was too good to refuse, prompting the former Queensland State of Origin representative to join pre-season training with St George Illawarra Dragons.
“I was retiring (last year) and I said if I do get a call up to the 2021 NRLW season then I will play that, and then that’s it, but it got postponed and I never got a call up and I thought, ‘oh well’,” House said.
“Then it got changed to this year and I randomly got a call literally just before the pre-season started and because it’s still technically the 2021 season, I was like ‘oh, I did say that would do it’ and obviously, because my uni is finished now as of last year, I can move, so I had that opportunity to be away from home.
“I felt I had a really good year last year and I was rewarded for the hard work I put in and I thought, ‘you know what, I probably would regret not doing it, because I am retiring’.
“I am just going to give it a crack, because otherwise, I will regret it and I will give it one more shot – and here I am.”
Given less than 24 hours to make her decision, the call came after her 2021 BHP Premiership mentor at Valleys Diehards Scott Prince put in a good word for her to Dragons coach Jamie Soward.
“Scotty Prince has always had my back and he messaged me that morning and said ‘hey, Jamie Soward is going to give you a call’ and I thought, ‘okay, that’s weird’ … so Sowie called me and was ‘I know this is last minute, but Shonny (Shontelle Stowers) basically isn’t able to play’ and Holli Wheeler was talking me up a bit; and Sowie said he had watched my games and had a chat to Princey and he was really impressed and wanted to offer me a position,” House said.
“But, he was basically like, ‘I need you to make a decision by tonight’, so I sat down with Roges (Rogan Dean) my partner and we weighed everything up; and I had just been given a job offer the day before to start as an exercise physiologist, just because I have graduated … so I rang them up and let them know what was the go, and they were still happy to offer the position when I got back, so everything was lining up.”
While House hadn’t picked up a football after the final whistle blew in last year’s grand final, she had been keeping fit, by training for and competing in local CrossFit competitions with Dean, a former Cup footballer who is aiming to compete in the CrossFit Games.
“To be honest, I hadn’t played football since June and I hadn’t done any high-speed running or any conditioning since then, all I had done was some long distance running and just CrossFit, so I was fit and strong, but I really struggled the first two weeks with the load, with the high-speed running,” House said.
“It was niggling hamstring, niggling quads, niggling groin, so my body was taking a bit to adapt to the running load, but I am feeling pretty good coming into this week … my body feels like it is adapting now, we have a couple of weeks left until the first game so should be sweet.”
While the call to retire seemed like a surprise to outsiders who had watched her performances in the statewide competition last year, for House, the timing was right to make the big call given the number things happening in her life away from the game.
“This is my 10th year of playing which is crazy and I am 32 this year and I have been pretty good with injuries, but I have had a few concussions last season, and I wanted to move on with my life,” House said.
“Although I loved it and I had a really good year with the team last year and the culture was really, really good, I think I just wanted to stop and focus on other things.”
For now, however, the powerful forward is making the most of the opportunity and enjoying her time as one of the more experienced players in the squad for the Dragons, despite the late call-up.
“It’s been good, I have been a little bit sad being away from home, but it’s been good having a house of seven of us (players),” House said.
“We are in the house together, it’s like a little family.
“We do yoga and go for walks and do ‘family nights’ and play games, (the whole experience has) been really good.
“(This has been a) new start, the club believed in me, I am looking forward to it and hope I can play some good games and finish on a high.”