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How coffee order landed Parramatta the next NRLW superstar

Parramatta’s mission to find a replacement for injured fullback Botille Vette-Welsh was done within minutes over a sweet caffeine hit at a café in Sydney’s west earlier this year.

When Gayle Broughton, a former New Zealand rugby sevens star who collected a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year, flew into Sydney to meet with the Eels, it didn’t take long for her to sign on the dotted line.

“They had me at a caramel latte, no sugar, coconut milk,” Broughton laughed.

“And if the coffee shop doesn't have coconut milk I usually go oat milk instead, and that’s how Parra got me.”

As fate would have it though, Broughton and the Eels were a match made in heaven from the start with the 26-year-old finishing up in the full-time Black Ferns environment earlier this year to move to Australia.

Broughton is regarded as one of the best rugby sevens players in the world with her side-stepping footwork and vision set to light up the NRLW in the upcoming season.

She had one eye on reuniting with her brother’s family in Sydney’s west while also switching codes after watching the likes of Emma Tonegato, Charlotte Caslick, Ellia Green and Evania Pelite, who Broughton has played against, do so recently.

Eels recruit Gayle Broughton (right) with Eels co-captain Simaima Taufa at the club's NRLW launch.
Eels recruit Gayle Broughton (right) with Eels co-captain Simaima Taufa at the club's NRLW launch. ©Nathan Hopkins/Parramatta Eels

Broughton could’ve played for the Eels in the 2021 season earlier this year but opted to settle into Australia and begin her transition to rugby league through the Harvey Norman NSW Premiership with Mounties.

Along with learning the differences in the code, Broughton returned to part-time work for the first time in a decade, waking up at 4am to drive a forklift for eight hours before getting ready for training in the afternoon.

“It’s been a switch and a half so far but I’m absolutely loving the journey at the moment, it’s probably been a really good wake-up call in how good I had things in a full-time environment,” she said.

“I’m learning a lot more about myself, a lot more about my character with more challenges. I can’t wait to write a book about it all.

“I needed a bit of a change in my life, that was the biggest point of all of this. I wanted to challenge myself in this space and no better way to do it then go from a professional rugby environment to a semi-professional rugby league environment.

“And I know I had the opportunity to come earlier but I respect this game and I wanted to learn early the challenges. I knew the Harvey Norman competition was the best chance to do that.”

Broughton is one of the first major rugby sevens converts to sign for an NRLW club from New Zealand and she doesn’t expect to be the last.

She hopes her move can be a catalyst for others to follow in the future.

“I think it’s an opportunity and pathway to take, I’m not the only union girl that loves rugby league in New Zealand,” she said.

Gayle Broughton playing for the Black Ferns against Australia in 2021.
Gayle Broughton playing for the Black Ferns against Australia in 2021. ©Andrew Cornaga/www.photosport.nz

“I’m a big fan of the season that just went. You had a feeling what team was going to win but then it went the opposite way and that's the thrill of it all.

“I felt like that wasn’t even scratching the surface. It’s going to go to another level and I wanted to get amongst it.”

As for her future in rugby league beyond this season, Broughton appears set for the long haul with a possible Kiwi Ferns call-up the major goal on her bucket list.

“It’s a massive dream of mine to represent another black jersey but I respect this game so much and don’t want to get ahead of myself," she said.

“I’d like to play in a World Cup, not necessarily the one coming up but one eventually… it’s a grey area at the moment but definitely in the books.”

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Parramatta Eels respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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