The dual rugby league international centre was injured playing for the Papua New Guinea Orchids at last year’s Women’s Rugby League World Cup.

Although initially disappointed to miss out on a spot in Jillaroos coach Brad Donald ’s professionally contracted squad of 40 players, the frank and honest speedster said it ended up being a blessing in disguise.

“I probably learnt a lesson I needed to go work on my knee in rehab," Kuk said.

“I should have taken the time off from all the (pre-season camp) rep and stuff and the depression (due to the injury), I just couldn’t focus on getting my knee right and I think it took me four to five months to get back uninjured.

“That probably would have taken me six to eight weeks if I’d done it right.

“But it was harder to come back mentally than physically, but I’m just happy to be back again amongst the girls in the Queensland jersey and I’m very, very grateful to be here," she said.

Kuk said it’s great to be back and a wiser version of herself will run out playing for Queensland this time, given the adversity she overcame to be here.

“I just can’t wait to go out there to play footy again, because it feels like I’ve been away for ages, even though I was in the jersey last year, it feels like the first time because I had to work my way back up again from scratch and it feels like the first time since I made my debut in 2016, so it’s a very exciting feeling," she said.

Not the first footballer to suffer psychological issues when confronted with injury, Kuk said new coach and former Origin great Jason Hetherington added extra sessions for the squad this season, but he’s also made it fun in the Maroons quest to win back the trophy from NSW.

“So we came into camp on Saturday and just had a little run around in the afternoon," she said.

“It’s a different feeling this year, it feels good, good vibes from the team and we’re all a lot closer and we’re doing a lot more team bonding stuff.

“We went to Dreamworld and we’re getting to know each other outside of football," Kuk said.

The 2016 Queensland debutant said the match being a standalone State of Origin fixture, the first of its kind after 19 years of being referred to as the Women’s Interstate Challenge, as well as the Nellie Doherty Cup - indicates how much women’s rugby league has grown in this country.

It’s being embraced by the men and not just any men, but former origin greats (FOGS).

“Alfie (Langer) and Gilly (Trevor Gillmeister) are going to help run the water for us, which is like so good," Kuk said.

“Getting former origin greats to come and run the water for you is just something that is kinda dream come true in a way.

“You don’t get that kind of special treatment in women’s footy and just to see the men come across is unreal," she said.

Kuk, who works as an ambulance officer away from football, said this year has been about catching up to NSW with the Blues pathways program paying dividends over the last three years.

She mentioned there have been extra camps and training sessions for the extended squad, as the Maroons have been proactive in attempting to catch back-up and change the result from the last two years.

“NSW was on the front foot, with all the new coaches and coaching staff they set-up really, really well and the (NSW) girls have come through and succeeded obviously.

“With Queensland, we have done our own pathways and this year is the first year we’ve all got together since February.

“It was a big step-up from last year where we got together that last week before we went to play, which was not enough and now we have a bit more preparation it just feels a lot more comfortable.

“We know how to run with each other and play footy with each other”, she said. 

Another highlight was having lunch with the men’s origin team while in camp on Tuesday and having the guys knowing who they are makes for one, big happy Queensland family.

Kuk feels she’s already has exceeded her own expectations for this season, as she didn’t think she’d be playing representative football given her injury.

But her performances at the National Championships for Queensland City made her a standout and she was always going to be chosen for the Maroons based on that great form and no matter the result come Friday evening, Kuk will be going hard and making up for lost time in what should be a thrilling game of women’s origin rugby league.