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Emma Young reckons she had no choice but to play rugby league.


“Well that’s what happens when you have eight brothers,” Young grins.


“I always played backyard footy and I’m used to playing against boys.


“So it wasn’t that hard going up against girls.


“It's just different in a proper competition, because you’ve got set plays that you have to adjust to compared to backyard rules.”


Meet Emma, the younger sibling of former Knights utility Michael Young, who played 20 games for the Club between 2004-2008.


She plays prop for the Maitland Pumpkin Pickers in the Women's Rugby League competition based in Sydney, while she'll also line-up for NSW when they take on QLD as part of the Festival of Indigenous Rugby League at Hunter Stadium in February.


The 24-year-old has been around football for most of her life, but it's only been in the past year where her playing career has significantly taken off.


Starting out with local club Maitland, Young has gone onto represent NSW and Australia at the World Cup within the space of just 12 months.


"It's all happened pretty quickly," she says.


"I started playing football at school when I was about 11, but this is my first proper year of playing.


"I got picked for NSW after playing for Mindaribba in the Aboriginal Knockout last year and I went from there.


"From last year to now, I’ve lost 30 kilos.


"So this whole experience has been amazing."


Young has achieved plenty in the past year, but she says nothing can top helping the Australian women's team win their first ever World Cup last July.


Playing alongside older sister Julie and sister-in-law Bec, Emma played a crucial role as the Jillaroos' defeated rivals New Zealand 22-12 in the final in Leeds.


“It was incredible,” she beams.


“I can’t really describe it, because it was all mixed emotions.


"It was good as well, because I got to experience it with my sisters.”


Young can't wait to don the blue against Queensland at Hunter Stadium next month.


She is especially excited because it will be the perfect opportunity to play in front of her brother Michael given his former links to Newcastle.


"I’ve always idolised my brother and seeing how happy he was running out there for the Knights," she says.


"It was like his dream to pull on the jersey and he got to do that.


"Michael is now working in the mines and he coaches us at Maitland and Mindaribba, so I want to make him proud.


"Our family pretty much is rugby league.


"We’ve all been raised on it, played against each other and watched it.


"I’ve always wanted to play, but my mum didn’t want me to play.


"My dad eventually let me play, so I just went from there."


Young says it's an honour to be involved in the Festival of Indigenous Rugby League in Newcastle - a vital chance to recognise the role her people play in the game and the community.


"It’s really important," she enthuses.


"If they didn’t have this, then I wouldn’t have even been in the Australian team because I wouldn’t have been seen.


"It’s also important for the community to be recognised and women in league as well.


"We always have a lot of family members watching.


"My dad (Les) drove all the way from right up north near Cairns last year just to watch me in a trial game, so all the family gets behind me and they'll all be at the game next month."


Including big bro Michael, who no doubt will be watching on proudly from the Hunter Stadium grandstand.