Kiara Meredith-Brown was raised with rugby in her blood.
From the age of six she was running around a rugby field with her four-year-old brother and her dad in charge coaching them in the Under 7s in Canberra's junior club competition.
Once she reached her teens she took up hockey competing to a representative level for many years.
But it was when, en route to Coffs Harbour, she stopped by the Bowral 7s tournament in which her brother was playing, that the passion for her first sport re-emerged.
An old friend from her junior days suggested she pull on a pair of boots and with that, Meredith-Brown borrowed a mouthguard and her return to the rugby field was off and running.
“I think I always knew I was going back. But when I was trying to balance the two (sports), it wasn’t really a hard choice. I picked rugby and I’ve never looked back,” Meredith-Brown said.
With her dad, former Brumbies player Paul Brown, a key figure on the ACT rugby scene for many years with Royals, the code is in her genes.
Brown was the back-up scrumhalf to George Gregan in the initial year of Super Rugby in 1996 and made his only appearance for the Brumbies in their 70-26 win over the Highlanders at Bruce Stadium.
“He is quite proud and I don’t think he ever expected there would be a women’s competition, so it’s nice to hear it from him and how it’s changed over the years.”
From within the close-knit Canberra rugby community Meredith-Brown credits Wallaroos veteran Louise Burrows for being a key influence in her journey.
“Watching her play as I was growing up she was always a big role model for me. She’s a fantastic person.”
Meredith-Brown, a scrumhalf, took a year away to travel, basing herself in the UK with her partner, Andrew Heffernan, who had gone over to play for Hull Kingston Rovers in the Super League.
“I did play some tag rugby over there which is the equivalent of OzTag. It was really great – we had a tournament where we had teams from all over England and the London team was all Australians on their gap year, so it was really nice to be around that culture and I really missed my footy.”
Returning late last year Meredith-Brown was excited to get back to the team environment at the Brumbies.
“It’s been great to come back with all the girls’ support and the culture of the team is just amazing.”
She openly admits to a preference for sevens despite seeing the value of both formats.
“XVs is a lot more structured and I do like that and I like the organisation of it, the tactical side of it,” Meredith-Brown said.
“But at the same time, I like how off-the-cuff and unpredictable sevens can be – it’s a really exciting game format.”
Keen to keep sport as a theme off the field as well, Meredith-Brown is pursuing a career in physiotherapy at Uni of Canberra, hoping to one day ply her trade as part of an elite sporting unit.
“Even when I watch the Super Rugby games I’m watching the physios because that is a big dream of mine.”
The 20-year-old is excited about the new XVs pathway in Australia and the competition which has kicked it all off.
“I think it’s been such a good journey and we’re only just getting started,” Meredith-Brown said.
“There’s been a lot of pressure and I think it comes from the platform this has been on, it’s something we’ve never really faced before so that’s been quite a big challenge for myself and some of the other girls.”
She confesses to being “gobsmacked” by the size of the crowd which turned out to watch the Brumbies game against the Reds, excited by the support that is now emerging for women’s rugby.
“It’s great that we get to learn how it is when we step it up to a bigger competition. It has been tough at times, but nothing ever worth having is easy.”
The NSW Women take on Brumbies Women at Pittwatter Rugby Park in Sydney on Saturday. The match will kick-off at 3pm and will be streamed LIVE on RUGBY.com.au. There will be a full replay broadcast on FOX SPORTS.