Aussie 'miracle child' lining up for Kiwis at Women's RLWC
'Pretty much like a dream come true'
She's one of the first Australian-based players to line-up for the Kiwi Ferns, but the fact that Raecene McGregor is here at all is something worth celebrating.
The first-born child in her family, McGregor was by no means the first pregnancy in the family with her mother suffering 12 miscarriages before she had her 'miracle child' after moving from New Zealand to Australia 20 years ago.
"That's pretty much what everyone calls me," McGregor told ESPN of her nickname 'miracle child'.
"My mum, unfortunately, had 12 miscarriages when she was in New Zealand and was told she'd never have kids. The same year she moved to Australia, she fell pregnant with me.
"I was a couple of months premature and they pretty much told her 'she's not going to survive, don't get your hopes up too much', but I did [survive] and she was stoked, finally she got her child."
Less than two years later, her family welcomed a second daughter, Page, to the mix, and the rest, as they say, is history.
McGregor's parents made sure to get both of their daughters into sport early, but as much success as "Rae" finds in sport nothing will replace the importance of her close-knit family.
"Family's everything to me, I mean I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them," she told ESPN. "They pushed me to do everything that I possibly can.
"They're so proud of me for getting the chance to play, not just to play for their country, but to play for my heritage for the first time, so I'm pretty proud to represent for them as well."
A sporting star from a young age, McGregor, alongside her sister, tried her hand at multiple sports before getting the opportunity to represent New South Wales and Australia in soccer. She then moved to touch rugby, rugby sevens and rugby league -- winning sevens gold for Australia at the Youth Olympics in 2014.
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"I've always played sport, growing up playing soccer and touch and then later on through that getting into rugby and that's kind of where I started to get into more contact," the utility back told ESPN.
"Through school I played [rugby] league, but I was at an age where there were no competitions outside of school for me.
"I was older than 12 and there wasn't really much around the area [western Sydney] for under-16 at the time -- which is getting a lot better now -- but at the time, it was more just rugby, rugby, rugby, and when I finished school at 17 I was old enough to play in a women's tournament. So three years ago was when I first started playing [league] and ever since then I've just been trying to do my best and get to the top."
Recently plying her trade in the inaugural University Sevens competition for the Macquarie University Rays -- alongside Kiwi Ferns teammate Nita Maynard -- McGregor had previously tried to make her way through the rugby league representative channels but was unable to crack the New South Wales side let alone get a chance to trial for Australia's national side, the Jillaroos.
"When the opportunity came across [to trial for New Zealand], it was pretty much a dream come true," McGregor told ESPN. "Getting knocked back playing for NSW, not getting the opportunity to progress to at least trial for the Jillaroos and getting the opportunity from [New Zealand assistant coach] Jason [Stanton] to at least trial for the Kiwi Ferns, that was pretty awesome."
Now, she'll take the field alongside Maynard as the first Australian-based players for the New Zealand side in the Women's Rugby League World Cup.
"I don't even think about that any more, that's gone to me. I'm so proud to be able to put the black and white jersey on," she said. "When I got to put it on last weekend that was like... I nearly had tears in my eyes I was so excited, my parents couldn't even speak they were so proud.
"I'm just so happy to be able to represent their country for them and my heritage."