After their preliminary final win over Narrabri, Pirates coach Anthony Barbara described Phoebe McLoughlin as a "special talent".
The teenager reiterated that in Brisbane on the weekend as the UNE Lions kicked off their Aon Uni 7s campaign.
McLoughlin, who due to her Lions commitments was unable to play for Pirates in Saturday's Central North women's 7s grand final, "played amazing" Lions head coach Inge Visser said.
"For the size that she is, she was really thrown in the deep end," she said.
McLoughlin only made her debut in the final leg of last year's series but is seen as a key player this year and "played a lot of minutes" on the weekend.
"I was really happy with how she played and her effort," Visser said.
"She showed she belongs at that level."
Visser also made mention of Warialda's Rhiannon Byers.
Part of the Lions since their inception, the former Inverell Highlander is this year one of their two allocated Australian squad members, and was typically tireless.
"I also thought she stood up in a leadership role," she said.
"She really is a role model for us and very supportive."
It was a tough opening weekend for the the young Lions, finishing eighth, but Visser believes there is "heaps of improvement possible".
"There was a really good build-up through the tournament," she said.
"They showed some potential."
It was a bit of a baptism of fire with the Lions drawing eventual champions the University of Queensland in their opening game.
They were beaten 24-7 before falling to the University of Canberra 19-7 and University of Technology Sydney 31-14.
They bounced back on Sunday morning, thrashing the University of Western Australia 33-5 but couldn't follow that up in their play-off games, going down to the University of Melbourne 27-15 and UC 34-7.
Visser had spoken heading into the tournament about wanting to break into the top four this year and while the weekend didn't quite deliver the results she was hoping for in that regard she was happy with their performance.
"We've got a lot of new girls playing their first AON series," she said.
Only a handful of the wider 24-strong squad have played for the Lions before.
Visser knows first-hand how much of a step up it is.
It is a lot faster.
There is also the fatigue factor of playing back-to-back games, which a lot of them aren't accustomed to and caught them out on the weekend.
"On the first day we scored all the first tries," Visser said.
"It's just pushing through the fatigue in the second half."'
The next leg is at Bond University on September 28-29 and Visser is hoping the Lions can pick up where they left off.
McLoughlin's Pirates' team-mate Miah O'Sullivan also suited up for Bond University, who finished one spot behind the Lions in ninth.
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