THE Shoalhaven might have another connection to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, after Rhiannon Byers recently helped her Australian women's sevens rugby team qualify for the XXXII Olympiad.
Moree-born Byers, who is the grandchild of Nowra's Ian and Shirley Usher, grew up in the small village of Pallamallawa - with her school only consisting of 30 students.
But rugby union wasn't a part of her life until the age of 12.
Before that, she rode horses - from the age of two.
This led to her placing third in the Mounted Games at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, at just 16 years of age.
"When Rhiannon was growing up, we always thought she'd represent Australia in dressage - definitely not rugby," Ian Usher said.
Following this, she started rugby at Warialda High School.
"Once she started rugby, she never looked at," Ian Usher said.
"Rhiannon is actually a lot like our other daughter and her auntie Tanya - anything she puts her mind to, she excels at, she's just one of those naturals."
Byres started rugby as the coach at the school, Dale Beattie, has a tradition of asking all the new students if they wanted to play.
As her grandfather stated, Byers took to rugby like a duck to water.
In her first year playing, she played a 10s competition with her school team.
The following year, rugby sevens came on the scene, which saw Byers compete at the Foster Coast to Country Cup.
In 2015, Byers played at both the NSW CHS and All School carnivals in Sydney, which saw the now 20-year-old claim her first NSW Country jersey.
Two years later, Byers' school created history by becoming the first team to win both the CHS and All Schools competitions in the same year - not bad for a school with less than 200 students to pick from.
Of course, Byers was instrumental in both of these victories, being named player of the tournament at both events.
During this time, Byers has also played for the NSW under 17s team twice (winning the plate final in Perth) before playing for thew NSW Country women's XVs team at nationals.
"She tried her hand at all the rugby union forms but her true passion always laid in the sevens," Usher said.
After narrowly missing out on a chance to represent Australia at the Youth Commonwealth Games in the Bahamas, she used this as motivation to continue to get better - leading to her being picked up by the Armidale UNE Lions for the AON Uni Sevens competition.
This acted as a springboard for Byers to have her breakout 2018 season.
It started by her leading her local Inverell Highlanders team to their first ever Central North Zone premiership, which her being named player of the finals.
Byers, who also played for the Manly Mermaids at the Kiama Sevens in 2018, carried this strong form into AON Uni Sevens competition, where she was named in the tournament's overall 'dream team'.
It was at this point that Byers was first invited by Aussie coach John Maneti to train with the national sevens team.
"I can still remember when we found out Rhiannon had been invited to start training with the Australian team - we were all over the moon," Usher, who played rugby league for the Bomaderry Swamp Rats growing up with his brother Gary, said.
Although she was training with the squad, Byers also helped her Aussie team win gold at the Oceania Sevens tournament in Fiji before playing in Dubai with the Tribe Sevens - finishing that tournament in fifth.
On the back of these two tournaments, Byers was given a development contract with Rugby Australia - seeing her move to Sydney and live with Aussie team mates Page McGregor and Shannon Parry.
Her hard work on the training paddock and strong performances in friendlies against France led to the phone call Byers had been waiting all her life for.
"On arrival back from France, Rhiannon received a call from her coach John [Maneti] offering her a full-time contract with the Aussie set-up," Usher said.
"She couldn't wait to tell all of her family, as we are just so proud of all she's accomplished.
"She deserves everything that comes her way, as her drive to be the best comes from her mother Katreena.
"Her mother has been there every step of the way and deserves a lot of praise for the way she brought up Rhiannon."
With six months of training under her belt, which included four six hour days per week, Byers was announced to make her official HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series debut in France.
"We all started crying when it was announced she was making her Aussie debut," Usher said.
"We've seen first hand how much time and sacrifice she puts into the sport - it's great she is now starting to reap the rewards."
Byers made a memorable debut for Australia on her 20th birthday wearing her favourite jersey number 11 - in memory of her uncle Daniel 'Boon' Usher.
Her play then helped Australia finish fifth at the final leg of the world series, securing the team fourth spot on the ladder and automatic qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics - were the Aussies will go in as defending champs.
"Hopefully now she can hold her spot in the side and get on the plane for next year's Olympics," Usher said.
"It's all very exciting - we will all be there if she does get the call-up."
Next up for Byres is a trip to Samoa in July to play in the Pacific Games.