This article was first written for and published for NRL.com.
Next Friday night when NSW and Queensland take the field at North Sydney Oval to take part in the first ever Women’s State of Origin, I will be watching history in the making from the grandstands.
I don’t know exactly how I’ll feel when those women take the field, but I imagine I will be quite emotional.
Over time, I have come to know most of the women who will be competing. Some, I am lucky enough to call friends and I have been privileged enough to watch their careers flourish as there has been increased opportunity for women to play rugby league.
For the little girl that first started playing when she was four years old for Mascot Junior Rugby League Football Club in a jersey that went down to her knees, this will be a big moment.
Meg Ward will also be making her debut for Queensland after representing the Australian Jillaroos last year in the World Cup.
This time last year very few people knew who Meg was, now her face is plastered all over the North Sydney area, alongside Kezie Apps promoting the clash.
Plenty of young women will also be making their representative debuts including Tallisha Harden, Mariah Storch and Rhiannon Revell-Blair.
But I think for me, this game will be so significant because I’ve had my own personal journey with the women’s game over the last five years.
When I was a little girl growing up, I loved my rugby league. But during my formative years, even after all those years watching footy I never ever asked myself or anyone else, “why aren’t there women playing rugby league?”
I often say “you can’t be what you can’t see” and quite simply, women playing rugby league were not visible to me.
It was about five years ago that someone first told me about a team called the Jillaroos – Australia’s women’s team – and I knew if I didn’t know who they were, then few other footy fans would.
Five years ago, women playing rugby league were virtually invisible.
Next Friday night, the Holden State of Origin clash will be televised live on Channel Nine and broadcast across the country.
This game is the perfect teaser for the inaugural women’s competition which will kick off in September. This competition is becoming more real by the day as St George Illawarra, the Warriors, Roosters and Broncos announce player signings and their squads begin to take shape.
If you are a new convert to the women’s game, here are some things you need to know about the fixture.
While this is the first State of Origin contest, it is not the first time that an annual clash has taken place between Queensland and NSW – the first Interstate Challenge took place in 1999.
If you think Queensland’s dominance in the men’s State of Origin is something to behold, it doesn’t even stack up against the dominance of the Maroons’ women’s team, which won the contest for the first 17 years.
In 2016, the NSW women won the contest for the very first time and last year won it for the first time in consecutive years.
Should the NSW men and women each win their respective series this year it will be the first time in history that this has ever happened.
Some players to watch out for?
Keep an eye out for Talesha Quinn, but just don’t get her confused with the other Blues second-rower, Kezie Apps. Both are tall, blonde, fleet footed and run great lines.
Talesha has had a remarkable rise. Last year when she heard that the Cronulla Sharks were starting a nines team she requested a relocation from the army, moved to Sydney and then not only played for the Sharks, but also made her Blues and Jillaroos debut too.
Ali Brigginshaw plays for Queensland and was the first woman to sign for the Broncos.
She is from Ipswich and grew up supporting the Broncos and Queensland. She has played five-eighth for the Jillaroos for several years and was the architect in several of the Jillaroos wins during the World Cup last year, has a wealth of experience and won’t be happy that NSW beat Queensland last year.
There are plenty of people out there who want and demand more for women in sport. More money. More coverage. More opportunity.
It is not enough that we make these demands. We not only have to talk the talk but we also have to walk the walk.
That is why it is so important that we all turn up next Friday night and sell out North Sydney Oval.
It is one of my favourite venues to watch sport – particularly women’s sport. Just wait for the festival vibe that will await you and with tickets just $10 for adults and free entry for kids, you won’t get a more affordable Friday night of entertainment.
If you can’t be there, then turn your TV on. Because if there’s one thing that is just as important as getting your bum on a seat, it is broadcast numbers.
This is a significant moment in the history of the women’s game. It is an opportunity to celebrate how far we have come whilst recognising how far we still have to go.