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A winning mentality: Roche sets sights on NRLW dream after biggest move

Georgia Roche turns up to Newcastle's Merewether Beach, orders her go-to coffee and then sits down to chat about life in Australia after arriving down under from the United Kingdom just two weeks ago.

The blue-eyed Englishwoman immediately concedes it’s all still a bit of a blur that she’s decided to uproot her life to the other side of the world in a bid to chase her rugby league dreams.

She's also just a little overwhelmed by the fact that the sun is out on a mild winter's day in the Hunter and it could still be warmer than a summer's afternoon back home in the northern hemisphere. 

Roche, the first player to ever win the inaugural Woman of Steel award in 2018, is settling into life as a Knight ahead of her first season in the NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership after securing a five-year contract with her new club. 

The length of Roche's deal has surprised many given the English playmaker is untested in the NRLW, but such is her talent the Knights are willing to invest in her long-term and set up a future she had started to envision in recent years.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet that I’m here,” Roche says, as part of the 2023 Telstra’s Hersday series on

“I’m 22, I've lived in a small village with my family back home and it’s a tight-knit community. You head somewhere and you know at least one person in the shops or wherever you go.

“Newcastle is kind of the same, everyone is welcoming and everything feels 10 minutes away, but I know at the end of the day I’m still thousands of miles away from what I really know."

Roche’s hometown, Birstall, is about 15 minutes from Leeds and has a population of around 15,000 people. 

She grew up around rugby league with her father and uncle both playing semi-professionally and her brother Kieron also heavily involved in the game.

Kieron is who Roche credits for shaping her win-at-all-costs attitude coming through as a junior after their backyard battles at times got so heated older sister Sarah was often caught stepping in.

“I didn’t have a choice really, it was destined for me to play and I’m thankful now for all the bruises and getting knocked over every two seconds as a five-year-old,” Roche said.

“Without Kieron I wouldn’t have looked at a contact sport. We fell out once during a game and I had my boot in his hand. I chased him up the stairs where he barricaded the door.

“I beat the door so hard with the boot there were holes dented into it. My sister is the oldest and was the one who chose who to side with. Nine times out of ten it was with me.

“We’re all close. Without them I don’t have the competitive nature that I do now.”

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Roche’s family were all there at the airport to farewell Roche after her visa application was finally approved in early July to leave home for the first time and make a long-term move to Newcastle. 

The delay has pushed Roche’s much-anticipated NRLW debut back until she settles into her new surroundings – a task made easier with her partner Sam joining her in the Hunter.

“When I left the airport both our families were all crying and I asked why,” Roche said.

“I associate crying with being sad but they were all crying happy tears. They’re happy I’m chasing a dream and taking a massive opportunity.

"Sarah's children, my two nieces and nephew, they’re special little people to me. I want to show them the world is such a small place and if you can dream, believe and achieve you can end up here in an amazing place."

Homesickness is also a reality that many athletes face throughout their careers, whether they're playing internationally or domestically, with Roche's close bond with her family a factor in weighing up whether the time was right to leave home.

"I’ve spent nearly every day with my one-year-old niece and I was worried she would forget who I am while I was gone," Roche said. 

"But I also think this experience shapes you as a person and how I react to that. 

"They’re the adversities you want to overcome because once you’ve overcome it, you know if it came around again, you can be better for it. 

"I can pick up the phone whenever and I know they will answer. It’s only a flight away, it’s not actually that a big of deal.

"Of course it will all set in at some point with like not being at family parties and things like that but the positives outweigh the negatives."

Roche is one of three English players who have moved to Australia for the NRLW this year - flying the flag for the nation for the first time in the competition's six-year history alongside Fran Goldthorp (Cowboys) and Holli-Mae Dodd (Raiders).

After England never got the chance to play the Jillaroos at the World Cup - they went down to New Zealand in the semi-finals - there's a small part of Roche that wants to lead the way for her national teammates. 

"For me it’s one of the main reasons I took the opportunity to come over," Roche said.

There’s so much talent at home that goes a miss. If we can do even half a job in raising that English flag then people and clubs will look overseas more.

- Georgia Roche

"In Fran and Holli you’ve got who I believe are the two best young players in England, and they could be the best players in the world eventually.

"The girls at home do watch from afar and do admire the girls for what they are doing. The competition here is far more competitive and that’s the way to improve your game.

"You learn a lot about yourself as a player and person by playing big games and alongside and against players who you learn from. 

“There’s been different occasions where I’ve watched NRLW grand finals and State of Origins from home and the games are so fast.

Georgia Roche is settling into her new surroundings ahead of her NRLW debut this season.
Georgia Roche is settling into her new surroundings ahead of her NRLW debut this season. ©Newcastle Knights

"I don’t think a few Super League clubs are that far behind with NRLW clubs and as a nation we missed out on success at the World Cup but we put on a good first half against New Zealand which was a clear indication with where we’re at.

"We’ll keep working towards 2025 and I'm confident those gaps will close. I set myself little goals to come over here.

"To play for your country is the pinnacle but there’s always a what’s next once that happens. This was my what’s next moment."

So, now that you’re here, what's next now for Georgia Roche?

“Make my NRLW debut,” she smiles.

“There will be a tear shed… I’ll probably try and hide it as much as I can but I also think I won’t be able to knowing my family will be a thousand miles away probably crying too.

"Dreams are here to be made and it will be a dream come true. When I spoke to Ronald [Griffiths] I knew this was the place I wanted to be.

"Since I’ve arrived at the club everyone has really backed up what they’ve said. It’s just the little things I’ve appreciated.

"I’ve had one full week training with the girls. Some girls are going to be here with me for the next five years so I better start getting to know them."

Roche on coming to Newcastle

And as for if she will look to return home after her first stint in the NRLW finishes, in a clear indicator of where Roche's mindset is, she plans to call Newcastle home for as long as she can. 

"I’m not sure yet, I’d like to go home for a visit eventually but I also see it as, is it really necessary or do I instead wait for a time where I’m ready to go home.

"I haven’t thought that far ahead yet but any time I’m feeling it I’ll go and it's only a flight away."

Five fast questions with Georgia Roche

What’s been the biggest eye-opener since arriving to Australia?

I don’t think there’s been anything too major but the weather. I can’t believe we’re in the middle of winter here and this is as bad as it gets. I’d have my bikini on back home.

Have you tried any new foods here yet?

The girls got me a little care package when I arrived. It had items like Tim Tams and Milo, which was really nice of them. I’m having a chat with a dietician [this week], so we’ll see how it goes.

What scares you most about living in Australia?

Funnily enough we were researching before we came out here about the reptiles and animals you might come across but it was more around stepping out of my comfort zone and meeting new people. Now that I've met everyone I don't know why I worried so much!

Which Knights teammates have you quickly gelled with?

Everyone has been really welcoming. Viena [Tinao] and Rima [Butler] are the class clowns. I was talking to Jesse [Southwell] yesterday and all we did was laugh. Hannah [Southwell] is a leader and you can see that with how approachable she is. 

Have you tried surfing yet?

We actually bought some bodyboards off Marketplace last week and a few of the girls came down and we were absolutely trash. I ran as the wave was coming and it took me off my feet.


The NRL Telstra Women's Premiership kicks off on Saturday in a newly-expanded 10-team competition. Secure your seats at