BUNNY BROWN: COVID opens door for Grafton media star
COVID-19 has brought on change for most this year but Grafton media star Katie Brown has found a way to turn misfortune into her next opportunity in the NRL Women's competition.
A reporter with the NRL, Brown has experienced the ups and downs of the 2020 season that was under jeopardy, before returning under a raft of strict guidelines.
After having her hours reduced, Brown put that spare time to good use and decided to give rugby league a go. Before too long, Brown found herself alongside some of the nation's best athletes in the South Sydney Rabbitohs NRLW side.
"I had been training with them in November but when COVID hit I thought it was a good chance to give it a go," Brown said.
"I wasn't working as much so I put a lot of effort into keeping fit. I put on 9kg and bulked up.
"The coach (Dean Widders) had also lost work so we were going to the park a lot and he had the time to help teach me a bit. I'm loving it, hopefully it's just the start."
Brown had tried her hand at a number of sports including Aussie rules and netball, but had never been anything more than a spectator at a rugby league match.
That all changed on July 27 when the 28-year-old made her debut in the iconic South's green with a tinge of pink.
After getting her boss' blessing to play, Brown was told she would have to show up the next day no matter what condition she was in and after breaking her nose during her second clash, she did just that.
"As a reporter, he said 'remember you still need to show up'. I broke my nose in my second game and still rocked up to work," she said.
"It didn't phase me too much. I did my ankle playing Aussie rules and that kept me out of sport for 18 months so that was much worse. I had put that out of my mind.
"Breaking my nose in comparison was fine. I got two black eyes and a swollen nose but I was really lucky. I just covered it up with makeup to do the show and even went snowboarding a few days later."
While State of Origin usually dominates Brown's calendar through the middle of the year, the Graftonite said the postponement of the series was a blessing in disguise.
"If COVID didn't happen, realistically I wouldn't have had chance to play. Usually this is Origin time. I love my job so much and living out of suitcase is great fun, but this year I've had so much free time," she said.
"I'm kind of excited to have Origin later in the year. I'm intrigued to see how it works. It'll be hard for the players to stay in that bubble and keep going."
While Brown found her way into the Rabbitohs line-up, coach Widders decided to proceed with caution in his approach to Brown's time at the club.
"I had a chat to Dean and he wanted to make sure next time I played I was fully aware and capable of protecting myself. I had played only 30 minutes of rugby league at that point," she said.
"I am the ultimate competitor and I tend to throw myself around a bit which was a a bit of a recipe for disaster. He was just looking out for me and my own safety."
But the rejection hit hard for Brown, who was devastated to find out she had been left out of the squad.
"I really nailed down on tackling practise but last week I was left out against the West Tigers. I was devastated. I trained so hard and I hate rejection," she said.
"I put so much time and effort in. Dean said 'please know these girls have 100 games experience and that's what it comes down to'. It's been a real rollercoaster.
"Netball was my sport growing up and I didn't make state or anything but I always felt I could have. I'm a little hard on myself. If COVID wasn't happening I'd be able to play in lower competitions to work it all out but I haven't had that opportunity.
"In the NRLW I'm playing with and coming up against Jillaroos and Origin players."
Like many of us, Brown has had a tough time during the pandemic but has been finding ways to keep herself motivated.
"I have had crappy days where I let myself be a bit flat and that's normal in this climate. I think I'm like anyone else, mental health a big thing," she said.
"I'm not 100 per cent myself at the moment but I'm managing during what is a pretty strange time. I'm doing what I can to stay off the couch."
While having a tough time, Brown said Iluka star Daine Laurie's debut at the Penrith Panthers was a proud moment for the former 'Ghosties girl'.
"I had butterflies. My heart felt really full when I saw him out there. I didn't know Daine when I was growing up but I messaged him after and told him how proud I was," she said.
"We had a conversation when he said 'up the Ghosties' and I realised he had played for both Grafton Ghosts and Lower Clarence Magpies.
"I told him to remember what he's doing is so amazing. He's an idol to so many back home."
Brown has also been a regular host at the Clarence Valley Sports Awards but due to State of Origin being played later in the year, will no longer be able to attend.
But Brown was delighted to hear the awards were still going ahead in 2020.
"I'm bummed I can't be there but I'm stoked it's going ahead. I always love going back, it has a very special spot in my heart," she said.
"It's great to continue having events like that and celebrate everyone in the game and community."
Adding to an impressive use of her time during COVID, Brown will commence a new sports segment on Andrew Voss' 1170 SEN breakfast show in the coming weeks as she continues to blaze a trail in the sports media landscape.