Elsie Albert’s family and friends in Papua New Guinea were celebrating so wildly as the Dragons prop offloaded for the try that sealed her first NRLW win last Sunday that the phone they had been gathered around to watch the game fell to the ground and broke.
“They told me you have to pay for the phone, but it is all good,” Albert said ahead of Sunday’s clash with Parramatta at WIN Stadium. “It was my first win and it still feels surreal, but I am looking forward to the next game now.”
Albert is hoping to create another piece of personal history by playing against her good friend and Orchids team-mate Therese Aiton, in what would be the first time two PNG players have featured in an NRLW match.
However, Aiton is expected to be ruled out due to heavy swelling under her left eye in Parramatta’s side’s 13-12 defeat of Newcastle.
“She has got no fracture and she is okay so she said that if the swelling goes down she is going to be a chance to play but I am not sure if she will,” Albert said.
There will be mixed emotions for Aiton if she has to watch from the sidelines, with the Eels hooker having helped Albert first come to Australia in 2020 to play for Souths Logan Magpies before securing a contract with the Dragons later that season.
Aition, who has established the Hezekiah Sports Scholarship Foundation to enable more PNG women to play in Australia, accommodated Albert at her house in Brisbane and drove the Orchids star to training.
She again helped Albert after visa issues and complications caused by COVID-19 border restrictions threatened her return for the postponed 2021 NRLW season.
“It was really hard to come back because of COVID, as well, and to get a player here - especially with the women’s side - there is not much money in it so for me to come back we had to consider the air tickets and to quarantine for two weeks was another cost,” Albert said.
“Therese started an organisation and they helped with the air ticket. My manager reached out to other people and they helped with the quarantine as well.”
Aiton, who is looking forward to playing alongside Albert with the Orchids at the end-of-season World Cup in England, said the 25-year-old was a raw talent with the potential to become one of the best forwards in the game.
“She still has so much growth as a player, she nowhere near uses her strength and ability as much as she should,” Aiton said. “She is so kind and gentle hearted that she doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but she is pretty bloody strong.”
With NSW captain Kezie Apps moving from the edge to the middle for the Dragons this season, she and Albert provided a great one-two punch against the Titans and a charging run by the Orchids prop led to Quincy Dodd score the match winning try in the final minute of the game.
Dodd seals the victory for the Dragons
Albert ran 96 metres with the ball, while Apps ran 101 metres and lock Holli Wheeler ran 105 metres.
“Having Kezie Apps in the middle, as well as Holli Wheeler, has been really helpful to me,” Albert said. “Once Kezie did the first run, and then me going in, it makes it much easier for our backs as well.”