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Upton issues warning to NSW: 'My best is yet to come'

Joe Gould -

Queensland fullback Tamika Upton swept all before her in 2023, a year in which she announced herself as the best player in the women' game.

But the Newcastle star insists she is just warming up.

Ahead of game one of the women's State of Origin series at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night, the 27-year-old told AAP there is plenty of improvement still to come.

She also reflected on her greatest challenge: learning to run again after a back fracture, and how the setback proved the making of her as a player.

Last year, Upton won the NRLW's Dally M Medal and was player of the match in the grand final for the premiership-winning Knights, scoring two tries.

She was also a member of the Maroons side that won the State of Origin series, and made her debut for Australia.

It's hard to imagine topping such a standout season, but Upton refuses to rest on her laurels.

"I have heaps of areas of improvement. I want to get better as a leader and a communicator, and heaps of things on the field," she said.

"I'm pretty in-tune with the team in Newcastle, but I can take it to another level in (Queensland) camps like this.

"That is all about learning more about each player and each game plan.

"The fullback locks up every defensive line and that is my focus every game, and to help the girls out at the back."

Upton's ball running, game sense and silky skills are her trademark. When she carries the ball to the line she seems to slide past defenders with ease.

But there was nothing easy about her return to play for Brisbane after a lengthy rehabilitation process in 2020.

"I had five or six months off after a pars fracture in my back and had to get back and learn how to run again," she said.

"My technique wasn't the best. From that experience I learned preparation and recovery - and so much about myself that I still use now.

"I look back and think that if that didn't happen, I wouldn't have the knowledge I do now about how to be a better athlete."

Upton, who has won two NRLW titles with the Knights and two with the Broncos, has a genuine love of the game and her teammates.

"I look back at the success last year, not from an individual point of view, but with the team - in Newcastle, Queensland, and then when I made my debut for the Jillaroos," she said.

"It was a whirlwind, but all the hard work that was put in at the start of the season came to light.

"I am pretty much at that point again and I am ready to go again.

"We have had a good preparation here in Queensland so far and we will keep that going through the week.

"We are very excited to run out at Suncorp for the first time in a women's Origin game."

Joe Gould - AAP


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