Jules Kirkpatrick only started playing rugby league four years ago, but she’s already made it to the top tier of the sport in NSW.
The 20-year-old from Singleton played her first club game with the Muswellbrook Rams and that same year tried out for the under 19s Tarsha Gale Cup side with the Newcastle Knights.
Jules made it into the Knights junior development system and that’s where her NRLW career started.
In 2022, Jules won the Player’s Player Award in the junior system, and in 2023 signed on with the Newcastle Knights NRLW team until at least the end of the 2024 season.
“I love being with the Newcastle Knights so I’m glad I had the pathway going through with them too.
“There are so many pathways and so much support around NRLW and now you’ve got so many players to look up to so it’s really good for the future generation of younger female athletes.”
Jules’ 2023 campaign with the Knights didn’t quite go according to plan…
She ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the side’s trial game against the Brisbane Broncos at Maitland 20 minutes in and just two weeks before the 2023 season kicked off.
“It was heartbreaking.
“That was my first ever huge, long-term injury so I didn’t really know what to expect but I’m on top of it now and the ball is rolling – rehab is going really well.”
Despite her year being turned upside down due to injury, Jules was the first Knights player to be awarded the third annual Minerva Scholarship.
The scholarship not only recognises a players’ football prowess, but also their dedication, leadership and commitment to both academic and community excellence.
The $10,000, 12-month Minerva scholarship will enable Jules to progress her Bachelor of Education (Secondary) Studies at The University of Newcastle while continuing her commitment to the Knights NRLW side for the 2024 season.
“I am grateful to be part of the 2023 Newcastle Knights Minerva Scholarship. I am proud to be a role model on and off the field for the next generation of female athletes. I can’t wait to get involved in this powerful initiative created by the Minerva Network.”
Newcastle Knights Chief Executive Philip Gardner couldn’t be prouder that Jules received the scholarship.
“Jules has long demonstrated an impressive balance between her sporting pursuits and academic responsibilities.
“Her dedication to maintaining high academic standards showcases a well-rounded approach to both sports and education, and our organisation believes that these qualities will not only contribute to the team’s success but also makes Jules a positive influence in the wider community.”
Jules is very excited to get into the 2024 season with the Knights and finally be able to take advantage of the incredible facilities on offer at the club’s Centre of Excellence.
“My goal for next season is to definitely debut in the earlier rounds, whether it’s round one, two or three, that’s definitely my goal,” Jules said.
“It is really good being with a high-quality team like the Knights. Just learning off all the older players as well, it’s nice being in a team like that.”
Like all of the other male and female players, Jules can’t speak highly enough of the facilities they have available to them at Newcastle.
“It’s insane. All the recovery stuff they have there, the gym, the physio, the field, it’s all just so good.”
The Knights NRLW season kicks off on July 25 with a game against the Sydney Roosters at McDonald Jones Stadium.