From overcoming speech and language difficulties as a child, to assisting south-east Queensland Indigenous communities facing similar challenges, Tallisha Harden uses strength of character to prime herself towards personal and professional success.
A passionate speech pathologist with the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH), Harden looks forward to yet another major test of her mettle, representing the Harvey Norman Queensland Women’s rugby league team in this Friday night’s Holden State of Origin match against New South Wales.
The 25-year-old’s career and sporting pursuits are littered with tales of inspiration that are sure to guarantee a solid account of herself come game time this Friday night at North Sydney Oval.
“I was a very sick kid growing up; I had my tonsils out, a few dramas with my eyes, a lot of ear infections, plus I had my adenoids removed. This had an impact on my speech and language and I found myself a little bit behind before entering primary school,” confirmed Harden.
“It was this situation that fuelled my desire to help out in community and I feel privileged to be a part of a wonderful organisation like IUIH where I can really have a positive impact among our people.
“Likewise it means so much to represent Queensland and to be a part of the first-ever women’s State of Origin.
“I broke my leg in a club game for Burleigh in 2015 in the same week I was supposed to make my Queensland debut, so it’s been a long time coming but I’m finally getting back to where I want to be with my footy.
“I had eight screws and a plate inserted in my leg so was guttered and struggled for quite a while, but now that I’ve got this opportunity I couldn’t be happier.”
One of six Maroons debutants, the talented lock forward has everything to play for, including a golden opportunity to impress leading into the inaugural NRL women’s competition, to be played during the regular NRL finals series.
And while State of Origin will see Harden finally fulfil a lifelong dream, she’s far from a sporting rookie.
This gifted all-rounder has already represented her country as a dual league and rugby 7’s international, played regular rugby with the Queensland Reds, and also worn the green and gold representing Australia in indoor volleyball.
It’s this sort of pedigree that sees the Logan product enlisted alongside rugby league greats Petero Civoniceva and Steve Renouf as Deadly Choices ambassadors; an IUIH-driven initiative targeting preventative anti-smoking, anti-alcohol and healthy eating campaigns, positive schooling, behavioural and educational experiences, plus sports participation programs for all ages within Indigenous communities.
“There have been NRL scouts getting along to club matches during the season and I was fortunate enough just last week to secure a contract with the Brisbane Broncos. I now want to repay the faith the selectors have had in me and help Queensland claim the inaugural Women’s State of Origin crown,” added Harden.
“There’s the added bonus of potential Australian selection for a Test match against New Zealand, plus a tour of Papua New Guinea later in the year so it’s an exciting time for women’s rugby league.
“Deadly Choices allows me to be even more involved in community which is awesome, and to have Petero and Steve around to chat about my footy is an added bonus.”
In all facets of her life Tallisha Harden sets a benchmark unsurpassed among her peers, the foundations of which are deeply embedded.
“My parents instilled a really good work ethic.
“Mum and Dad were fully committed to their jobs, always pushed a good education and encouraged us to get involved in sport. They made sure we always knew that nothing comes easy and if you wanted something bad enough you’ll work hard to get it.”