Official Siren Sport Collaborator Mary Konstantopoulos speaks to Kody House about almost retiring and getting the call to go one more season in the NRLW.
Kody House was going to retire from rugby league at the end of 2021. With a career that has spanned almost a decade, House has been a member of the Australian Jillaroos squad, represented Queensland in State of Origin, played for the Brisbane Broncos in the NRL Women’s Premiership and has also played for several clubs in the Queensland Rugby League competition including Ipswich Brothers and the Valleys Diehards.
But without an offer to play for an NRLW team in the 2021 competition (which was postponed to 2022), House started to reconsider her options and began planning to focus on her career and starting a family.
“Even though I was playing good footy at Valleys, I wasn’t getting selected so I thought perhaps it’s time to let the next generation of young women come through,” said House.
“I was also struggling to recover after games, had some niggly injuries and kept getting concussed. If my plan was to work full-time as an exercise physiologist, then I didn’t want to be playing on the weekend and then unable to go to work because of concussion.”
Then, in early January, just after pre-season for the NRLW had started, House’s phone rang. It was Jamie Soward, coach of the St George Illawarra Dragons NRLW side.
With the withdrawal of Shontelle Stowers from the NRLW, House had an opportunity to join the Dragons. But she had to make the decision quickly; and by quickly, that meant by that afternoon. House had to shift her focus from being retired and focusing on a new full-time role as an exercise physiologist, to considering whether she wanted to play one more season.
“I sat down with my partner and made a pros and cons list,” said House. “I had to think carefully about the risk of injury, about being away from my partner for an extended period and negotiate with my workplace to see whether they would let me start a little bit later.
“It was a hectic day because I had to try and work out if it was even feasible, but my partner has also played footy and was very encouraging. He knew that this might be my last chance”
House made the decision to play one more season. She packed her bags and left Queensland, relocating to New South Wales for the NRLW season during a global pandemic. If managing that wasn’t difficult enough, the other challenge was that because House thought she was retiring, she wasn’t given the opportunity to do the same pre-conditioning as the rest of the squad.
House was still fit, doing CrossFit, but rugby league requires a little bit more than that. But the Dragons have been extremely supportive and focused on helping House with the transition.
“Our coaching staff are great, especially with me and my loading; I’m pulling up quite tight and they are really understanding,” said House. “The message is ‘we have seen you play, we know what you are capable of, we know that you are fit.”
Given House has spent most of her time playing in Queensland, there are plenty of new faces to get to know in her new squad. Additionally, House hasn’t played representative football for three years, so there are some up and comers she is excited to play alongside.
House has been playing rugby league for a decade and even though she doesn’t quite see it this way, this next generation of players stand on her shoulders and the women that came before her. Whilst House sees women like Stephanie Hancock and Ruan Sims as the true pioneers, the influence of her cohort has contributed to the strength that we now see in the NRLW.
So then, is it really the case that House will retire at the end of this season? Maybe. Maybe not.
“I have said I am retiring after this season,” said House. “I’m not signed to a QRL club, so potentially it depends on whether I can play NRLW without playing in the QRL. Starting a family is a big thing for me, so I think it’s time to move on to that side of my life.
“I want to retire on top, so let’s see how this season plays out.”