Jess Gentle is making up for lost time after spending last year in the United States unable to play team sport.
The 24-year-old primary and high school teacher has proven a key signing for Charlestown Azzurri in Newcastle Herald Women's Premier League with her lightning quick pace, tireless work-rate and versatility.
Azzurri coach Niko Papaspiropoulos has been using her as a wide forward but could easily play her in any other position.
"Her fitness levels are unbelievable," Papaspiropoulos said.
"A few weeks ago, she had a game of rugby then played 90 minutes against Mid Coast on Saturday then 90 minutes again on Sunday. That's a pretty insane work-rate.
"She has great one-on-one ability, can play on either side, which gives us flexibility, or you can use her in the middle if you want to change the shape. And her quality is the same at training as it is on game day."
Gentle grew up at Mullaway, just north of Coffs Harbour, in a small town where she played any sport going.
She secured a college soccer scholarship with University of Wyoming after school and spent five years in the United States.
It was an experience she described as "amazing".
"We were flown all over the country and had training every day," Gentle said. "I got two degrees out of it and basically woke up every day and went to training.
"I definitely feel a lot more confident in the game now, having that experience and getting that exposure to coaching."
Gentle also tried her hand at rugby in the US and proved a natural.
"All three of my brothers played [footy] but girls were never allowed when I was growing up," she said.
"I loved it. In our 15s season, we did really well and made it to nationals. The sevens season was cancelled because of COVID and I actually spent nearly my last year over there where everything was cancelled. There was no soccer, no footy, nothing."
Gentle moved to Newcastle for work on return to Australia and was quick to get back into sport.
"It's nice to be back here where you can go and train with your friends," she said. "You take it all for granted until you don't have it."
As well as signing with Azzurri, Gentle played for University of Newcastle in the national university rugby sevens series this year and is in the Hunter Wildfires XV, who play in Sydney.
She has also signed with Merewether Carlton in the local competition and has been approached to play in Newcastle Rugby League women's A grade and rues the fact there are not more hours in the week.
"If it works out perfectly, I play soccer on Sunday and rugby on Saturday, but often they will fall on the same day and I'll run from one to the other," Gentle said. "I might miss the soccer warm-up and have to bail at the end of the footy game, but for the most part it's worked out pretty well."
Azzurri are in the mix for a top-four position but need to find some consistency. They face an important clash with Adamstown at Lisle Carr Oval on Sunday. As Herald WPL approaches its midpoint this weekend, Charlestown are sixth with 12 points and Rosebud fifth on 13. Fourth-placed Maitland (15) meet third-placed Warners Bay (19) on Saturday.
"As a team, we'd all loved to be up there and we know that we're more than capable of that," Gentle said. "It's been hard for us to get a solid week where we've had all players there and fit and not injured and not away.
"I think if we get everyone consistently to training and consistently to games, we all know that on a good day we can beat any of those teams. We just want to try to push it as far as we can and hopefully we'll be up there at the end of the season.
"Mostly, I just want to enjoy being back out there. I missed it so much with missing a year due to COVID. I'm just happy to be out there with whatever sport it is at the moment."
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