On Thursday night I was on cloud 9.
I was privileged enough to be at an event where the special guests were none other than Dave Smith (CEO of the NRL), Suzanne Young (COO of the NRL), Raelene Castle (CEO of the Canterbury Bulldogs) and Marina Go (Chairperson of the board of the Wests Tigers). In terms of the who’s who of the NRL, it does not get much better than this.
These guests were appearing to speak about gender diversity in sport and in particular, gender diversity in the NRL. Two of my passions combining into one sensational event.
The event was held at the offices of Clayton Utz – one of Sydney’s largest law firms, filled with men and women, most of whom NRL is not their sport of choice. Most of whom would have been going into this event not really knowing what to expect.
When Dave, Suzanne, Marina and Raelene looked out into the audience on Thursday night I am hoping they saw what I saw – opportunity. An opportunity to spread the NRL message.
And boy was that message spread.
I was genuinely impressed with the honesty, passion and commitment of the 4 guest speakers. Highlights included Raelene Castle demanding that women be brave enough to put their hands up, Dave Smith speaking about his vision for the Jillaroo, Marina Go advocating for targets and quotas and Suzanne speaking about the responsibility that the NRL has in respect of social issued like domestic violence. Each speaker was candid and engaged. It is clear that the NRL’s leaders are passionate about the social change which the NRL can be used to bring about and it was extremely positive to hear.
As I left the event I was very curious to hear what my colleagues had to say. As I listened to comments like ‘I had no idea the NRL was doing so much in terms of gender diversity’, ‘isn’t Raelene a kick ass chick’ and ‘I was genuinely impressed with what those 4 had to say tonight’, I reflected on the importance of my role as an ambassador for the NRL.
I have written countless stories about how the NRL is the story when it comes to gender diversity in sport. No sport is currently doing what the NRL is doing and it is something of which we can be immensely proud.
With women currently the largest growing influence group in the NRL, there is no sphere that isd currently being ignored. With Belinda Sleeman and Kasey Badger now featuring frequently on our touchlines (and Belinda set to make her on-field debut this weekend), women like Raelene, Suzanne, Marina and Rebecca Frizelle featuring in our board rooms and in our governance structures, the percentage of female members continuing to increase and our Jillaroos slowly becoming recognised for the talent that they have, it is clear that the NRL is focused on ensuring that women and girls feel welcome and included in the NRL family.
We still have work to do. It remains a very male dominated sport. We still have work to do in educating our players and ensuring that they behave like decent human beings both on and off the field. However, after hearing Dave, Raelene, Marina and Suzanne speak with such candour, honesty and passion about gender diversity, I am confident that the future of our game is in very good hands.
And this is where all of you come in.
We all know that the NRL is doing this – but do you know what, there are so many people who do not. Just like all the people that attended this event and had these 4 leaders serve as an introduction to the game of rugby league, we all have a job to do in spreading the word about the NRL and what we are doing.
We all know that bad news sells. We all know that people would rather read about scandal rather than stories about community involvement.
So next time you see someone speaking ill of our game or one of your friends doesn’t know much about the game, be an ambassador. Speak up and tell them about what the NRL is doing. Tell them about our passionate leaders and share the game with someone new.
If the NRL wants to continue to grow and live long into the future, it needs to win over hearts and minds. What are you going to do to be involved?
Ladies who League