This article was written by Melissa Muscat – 2017 Parramatta Eels Members Councillor.
I do love a celebration. Especially when prominent organisations celebrate the dedication of those who give of their time and talents for something they love. Regardless of gender, race, age or background, anybody who serves the community deserves recognition, and this is where I believe the NRL masters it well. There are various rounds in the season that celebrate groups for their contribution to the game including Indigenous, Stay Kind and Member Appreciation, to name a few. Cue in the Women In League Round this weekend. One of my favourites of the season.
It was a young female student who recently provided me with inspiration for this article. Beginning at a new school in Sydney’s south, and a hiatus from educating girls for the past three years, a young lady last week asked me, ‘Have you written an article about the first female referee?’ I told her I hadn’t but it definitely was momentous and would be material for my next article celebrating all things women in rugby league. To Belinda Sharpe, a huge congratulations but also Kasey Badger, for paving the way. To the NRL, thank you. For providing aspirations, hope and opportunities to young people who look up to the game and their sporting idols. I do hope all prominent organisations realise the significance these opportunities hold for the youth who look to a promising and equal future.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be included in this recognition of women in league with my Parramatta Eels Members Council involvement over the past few years. Different clubs celebrate these contributions in various ways, but most importantly have all been successful in promoting what their female fan base give to the game.
The Roosters sponsor Steggles, give up the sponsorship position on the front of jersey for the Women In League Round, allowing the players to have their most influential female’s name emblazoned across their chest. Very powerful. Personally this has been my favourite in previous years. Most other teams have a splash of pink on their kit for the round which is also a nice touch.
My first year on the Eels Members Council saw Parramatta host a function inviting female members who had played a significant part in the club to a cocktail evening, encouraging some of the players to share their experiences about the wonderful women who play an integral part in their lives. Last year, the Eels women’s coterie group was launched on Women in League Round, acknowledging the ladies who have gone into making the female member and fan involvement as significant as it is. One such member being Mary Konstantopoulos, queen of the Ladies Who League empire, whose full time job is solicitor. Her contribution to rugby league is purely a hobby. It exhausts me just thinking about it. Mary, thank you for all the promoting you do of the game in general but also the aspirations you give to females in rugby league and many other sports for that matter.
There was one thing I felt that was missing from the Eels Women in League Round though, and that was an acknowledgement of some kind on the jersey. It’s been a number of years since a Women In League Jersey was released by Parramatta. One of my final contributions on the Members Council, with feedback from Eels members and fans on social media, was a push for a women’s jersey in the round. I was pleased to see that not only did the ladies get a dedicated jersey, but even more than that, this year the Eels chose 200 lucky and loyal female members to have their names printed on the jerseys. And proudly, mine was one of them. So proud, that I will be flying to the Gold Coast to watch the team play in the kit with my name on it. What an honour. I love this sentiment. It’s special and permanent. Parramatta Eels take a bow this year, you’ve done well to acknowledge and celebrate your female members in quite a spectacular way.
So bring on the weekend for Women In League Round. I’ll be wearing my pink Eels jersey at any opportunity I can get throughout the week and celebrating amongst other amazing members, both male and female, the recognition of so many wonderful efforts. Thank you and congratulations to all who contribute to making the game as great as it is.