Stephanie Mooka would have been an unfamiliar name to even some of the most avid NRLW fans, but now she's a State of Origin veteran and a Jillaroos contender.

The new Illawarra Dragons recruit has never played at an elite level before, but was picked up after a sensational National Championships series and is now in the hotseat to represent the Jillaroos and her beloved Queensland in the showpiece of the League calendar.

It's been a remarkable rise, but it's her history before entering the NRLW, however, that came as the biggest shock.

“I smoked for years, I started smoking when I was 18 so it was 10 years. I used to smoke a packet a day, I was really bad. It was really tough for me to give that up but now I wish I had quit sooner," she told

“I think a lot of the time my match fitness has let me down and that is why I couldn’t go as far. Last year it was very obvious that I was unfit. I knew smoking was a big part of it and all of the other girls used to encourage me to try and stop.

“I always wanted to give up but I had to be mentally tough. I am really glad now that I did. The Nationals were the first time in a long time that I actually lasted a full game. It felt really good too, to achieve something big.

"I watched the NRLW comp last year and was actually shocked that the Dragons showed interest in me.”

Mooka says she wants to set a role model for girls - and in her own case, young women - to follow.

“I am glad I gave up smoking because it has had a really positive change,” she said. “I have had a lot of people approach me to go and talk to the young girls at school about not smoking.

“My message to them is that you have got to make the right choices, especially when you are young, because it is going to affect you in the future and you have got to be very disciplined.”