AT 43 and just months after retiring from representative rugby league Kylie Hilder will start for NSW in the women's State of Origin clash against Queensland at North Sydney Oval on Friday June 21.
Hilder has been named at dummy half. A knee injury sustained in the National Championships ended her hopes of playing in last year's game. Instead she was part of the Fox Sports commentary team with Andrew Voss and Corey Parker.
Hilder, who was born in Taree but now lives in Forster, announced her retirement from rep footy after last year's inaugural NRL Women's Premiership, where she played with grand finalists, Sydney Roosters.
However, she has continued to play for CRL Newcastle in the NSW Women's Premiership this year.
"Because I had retired from rep footy and all the elite stuff I've found I've been it's been more enjoyable this season,'' she explained.
Hilder eventually made herself available for the Country team to play in the nationals this month. Country, defending champions, lost the final of NSW City 34-4, with Hilder scoring Country's lone try.
She heard she was in the conversation for a place in the State team and received a call last week to confirm she was in the side. Her selection wasn't a shock, but HIlder admits she's still coming to terms with the news.
The Blues held their first training session with coach Andrew Patmore last weekend and will go into camp on Sunday.
There are seven debutantes from the side that downed Queensland 16-10 last year. Hilder said the Blues have named a powerful pack.
At 43 Hilder will be the oldest player on the field, however, that's never fazed her.
"Age is just a number,'' she reasons.
She expects the game to be fast.
"I know how fast the matches were last in the NRL women's premiership, and this will be even quicker,'' Hilder said.
"I'm really looking forward to it.''
She has played for NSW and Australia a decade or so ago, but then the women's game was nowhere near as professional as now.
Hilder has accepted a coaching position with the Sydney Roosters for the second NRL Women's Premiership to be played in conjunction with the NRL finals series. She initially said this would preclude her from playing, although now she's more guarded.
"I'll answer that question after the State of Origin is over,'' she said.
Her club coach at Newcastle, Rick Stone, is coach of the Roosters team.
Holli Wheeler has been named on the bench for the Blues. Wheeler, formerly from Old Bar, now lives in Newcastle. A back rower, Wheeler was a member of the NSW and Australian teams last year.