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Ryan Papenhuyzen went through high school at Oakhill College with fond memories of being taught by former Jillaroos captain Tarsha Gale, but never did the pair get talking about her career.

Gale, the sister of former rugby league player Scott Gale who sadly passed away from motor neurone disease in 2004, is an Australian legend of the women’s game.

The high school teacher-turned commentator was the first female to teach physical education at Oakhill College more than two decades ago and taught the likes of Papenhuyzen and Roosters star Luke Keary when they came through.

After over 20 years of service at the college, Gale opted early on to let her teaching do the talking than opening Monday morning’s lesson with how she went on the footy field that weekend.

It's a notion that carried on throughout her life, but came with a few bonuses that boosted her own career.

“I didn’t really ever publicise I was playing but the headmaster and a few other teachers knew that I did,” Gale said.

“I kind of thought it wasn’t as accepted as it was now. In hindsight I know that the boys would’ve loved hearing me tell all the stories but I wanted to focus on teaching and not make it a thing.

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“I do remember a couple of year 12 students raising the alarm one year being concerned I was a victim of domestic violence because I’d come in with a black eye from the weekend, so that was a nice moment of caring. 

“But overall, I just thought it was best to keep it silent. And no social media and lack of media coverage helped that, it allowed for me to not make it too known.”

The lack of social and media coverage also allowed for Gale to tackle students – that’s right, tackle students - on the training paddock as coach of the boy's rugby and rugby league teams back in the early 2000s. 

Gale was joined by former Wallaroos captain Nicky Wicket as a teacher a couple of years later who did the same, with the college having both Australian skippers in both league and union at their disposal.

Again, not that the adolescent high school kids knew too much about their teachers' sporting abilities in the background.

“We’d tackle them full on too," Gale said.

"You’d pick a big kid that plays so they’re used to getting tackled and so you’re not going to break them.

"The kids are 15-17 and they don’t want to say I hurt them so I got away with a fair bit putting shots on them and it would help with my own defence work. 

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“I played full on with them… I could climb all over them and it was OK. There were no injuries, maybe a few that were winded at times but they’d take it in their stride.

“You couldn’t really hurt them, they’re not going to whinge, they just take it.

"They loved a female teacher that could tackle, pass and rough it up and match it with them. 

“Then all of a sudden your reputation goes around the school that she can tackle. It became fine then.

“But these days, you wouldn’t dare try it, let alone at my age, you’d obviously get into trouble.”

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Gale captained Australia at the World Cup in 2000 before she returned home to resume teaching but sadly her brother’s condition began to deteriorate.  

More than two decades on she continues to make strides in education and in women’s rugby league.

The Tarsha Gale Cup, named in her honour, is producing the best young female talent in NSW while Gale commentates for Fox Sports and volunteers on weekly podcasts regularly.

“She really didn’t talk much about her own footy, she was really humble,” Papenhuyzen said.

“It wasn’t until we started to see some photos and video, records, come out recently that we realised just how big of a career she had.

"As a teacher she was awesome, my favourite teacher by a whole way, and she’s doing great things in the women's game. It's nice to see."

The Storm star knows, however, that Gale is less than impressed with his current haircut, the growing mullet that has kids all over Australia growing to be like the injured fullback. 

“He’d be suspended right now, no way in hell he would be allowed to turn up to school like that,” she replied.

“He said he’s not going to cut it while they’re still winning and now look at the bad luck he’s had. He should be shaving it off.”

Gale also recently ran into Keary after teaching him 12 years ago, and was quickly introduced to James Tedesco through the Roosters playmaker.

“I was so flattered because it’s been 12-14 years since I taught him,” Gale said.

“They’re both really good boys who deserve all the success.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.