Although she missed out on the 2022 Women’s Rugby League World Cup last year, Papua New Guinea’s female rugby league star, 25 year old Gemma Schnaubelt, is gearing up for a thriller 2023 BMD Premiership Season.
Regardless of her busy schedule, she was kind enough to have a chat and discuss about her playing career in recent years. Currently signed with the Norths Devils Women’s Team, Gemma is juggling her work as a full time Recruitment Consultant with studying, while at the same time, making time available for training which can sometimes be a hassle, but she maintains that she has a great support system that helps her get through.
“It’s really tricky if I’m being completely honest. For me, being in an office for an entire day sometimes it’s hard to train after work due to being mentally fatigued, but you get yourself in a routine and it all falls in to place,” she said.
“I’m pretty lucky to have a supportive partner, family and friends who I get to train with or motivate me when I’m having those tough days.”
This year, Schnaubelt will be starting out her first year with the Devils after a 1 year stint with the Souths Logan Magpies, a move that she is very comfortable with because its closer to home and work.
Gemma has also expressed excitement about signing with the Devils and is looking forward to the season with the amount of talent that they have and the great coaching staff behind them.
“Norths is a really great club, the success they’ve had with their men’s in the Host plus Competition, which my younger cousin Liam Horne has been a part of and I’m really excited to see how our BMD women’s team will go this season.”
The recent seasons have been pretty rough for the footballer, with having kept her on the sidelines for quite some time, Schnaubelt went through a tough period during the 2021 and 2022 seasons, with a lot lined up for her that did not work out the way she planned. She shared that because of the women’s seasons being shorter to that of the men’s, there was nothing much she could do but watch from the sidelines.
But with the never say die attitude she has, she returned mid-year to the rugby union season to which they made the grand final. During that time, Schnaubelt said she made it her goal to return the next season to play the finals.
In the same year, after coming off the success of being in the 15’s season finals, she took part in the Kokomo’s League team in a 9’s tournament. Gemma was again struck by another injury, one that could have almost ended her career when she dislocated her hip during a big tackle. Once again, she had a stint on the sidelines at the back end of 2021.
“Around then was pre-season & I was lucky enough that I had an awesome rehab team as well as the specialists who took care of me.”
“At that point it was in the talks I needed surgery. But with the World Cup postponed, my specialist looked at alternatives to help me get back to footy without surgery. I trained super hard right through Christmas and I made it back in time for our 2022 league season earlier than expected.”
With that said, Schnaubelt explained that she still found it hard to get back to the fitness level she was at in the beginning of the 2021 season.
“It was still tough, I wasn’t the fittest or strongest that I wanted to be, I had gained a lot of weight after my hip injury as I was basically not allowed to do anything. I wasn’t even able to have a shower on my own, or walk up-stairs, I was basically a couch potato”
It was at that point that she said that she contemplated on giving up her footy career. Her injuries coupled with off-field personal issues really took a toll on her mental health during the injury period.
Thankfully, she had a strong support system with the right people around her that encouraged her to keep on pushing through those tough times. Returning in 2022, determined to go one more time, Schnaubelt had to train extra hard because stints on the sidelines saw her fitness level drop. Therefore, she said she had to play catch up footy.
“I played a lot of my catch up footy & trained a lot more than I usually would. Doing extras with my partner. Then unfortunately in November last year during a Premier 7s competition playing for Sunny Bank, my current union club, I tore my Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Grade 2 scoring a try.”
She said she was lucky enough to avoid surgery again, but since then has been in a Knee Brace and back at rehab.
“It’s been a difficult road of injuries for myself, a lot of self-doubts but when you have the right people around you it motivates you to keep going so hopefully 2023 no more injuries and I guess just listen to the body when it’s struggling.”
Gemma added that she learnt a lot these past few months and now that she has overcome her self-doubt and she’s on the road to recovery, she’s looking to give it her all and play the best footy for the club, and for that Gemma is also featured as the Legend FM’s Legend of the Month.
“My big goal definitely is just too play consistent footy & enjoy it. Sometimes we go through these hurdles that makes us not love the game as much so my big one is definitely just to enjoy it again. I know myself when I enjoy my footy I achieve so much more & play some of my best footy.”
As for representing PNG, Gemma has high hopes on donning the colors. She said she’ll always put her hand up to represent the country, in any sport. For the Orchids, she is well aware that the 9’s World Cup and the Pacific Games (9’s) are ahead and she’s hoping to put her best foot forward, get back to killing it on the pitch and hopefully those representative honours come as rewards.