You can’t be what you can’t see and it wasn’t until NRL.com reporter Katie Brown saw women competing in the first NRLW season that she made her decision to give rugby league a go.
Even though she had some reservations.
NRL.com’s very own made her rugby league debut on the weekend for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the NSW Harvey Norman Premiership, reminding women everywhere it is never too late to lace up a pair of boots and try the game for the first time.
“I was scared. I was scared of not being good enough,” she said.
“I have a problem with not being the best and if something doesn’t go my way, I can throw the occasional tantrum. I’m competitive and I think that’s what held me back.”
After rehabbing a serious ankle injury and finding out her friend Dean Widders was coaching the Rabbitohs, she decided to pluck up the courage to have a go.
“Dean knew I didn’t know the first thing about playing footy, but that I loved watching it and reported it. He was the person who helped me believe in myself enough to have a go.”
Brown’s teammates were also really supportive. In fact, the biggest barrier for Brown, was herself and her own head.
“I put a lot of thoughts in my own head. I rocked up to training and I was worried they would think ‘who is this chick’, ‘why is she here’, ‘is she reporting on us’, ‘she doesn’t even play sport, she should get back to reporting,” Brown said.
“But at my first session everyone was so welcoming. It was me being hesitant and being so worried about what other people were going to think.”
From training, onto selection and onto game day where Brown was presented with her jersey from a pioneer in the women’s game, Tarsha Gale. This was an important moment.
Five years ago, Brown had no idea – like many of us – who Gale was. Since then, as women’s rugby league has gained momentum, this has not only presented my generation with the opportunity to play rugby league, but it has also given us the chance to celebrate trailblazers in the game like Gale.
To see Gale present her jersey demonstrated how far the women’s game has come.
Now women of any age can aspire to play rugby league with our trailblazers also being part of the journey and being recognised for the important role they have played in bringing the women’s game to life.
Covering the game for the last couple of years has given Brown the opportunity to get to know many of the players, but going to training and participating in the sessions has given her even more of an appreciation for the sacrifices these women make just to play the game they love.
“Growing up in school, I tried to start a rugby union team and when I couldn’t get enough girls, that was it. That was all the effort I put into playing tackle sport,” Brown recalled.
“I never thought of being an athlete, so I take my hat off to the women pursuing it professionally now.
“I see first-hand how these women train after juggling family and careers. To see it and be around it is very special.”
In the short time she has been playing, Brown has also gained a new perspective on her career.
“When I was telling myself to play, one of the thoughts that I had was about whether people took me seriously as a journalist because I hadn’t played the game before,” she said.
To cover rugby league, you don’t need to have played the game.
“There may have been a point that I thought playing the game not only shows I can do anything I put my mind to, but also that I cover rugby league because I want to be part of this game and perhaps by playing, I earn more respect.
“But to cover rugby league, you don’t need to have played the game. Would somebody say that to a court reporter who hasn’t been a policeman or a lawyer? It is good enough that we want to report on the game because we love it.”
Despite suffering a corked thigh in her first outing, Brown has been named in the starting side for the Rabbitohs for Saturday’s midday clash with the Wentworthville Magpies.And even though Brown was very sore the day after her first game, she can’t wait to do it all again.
“Being tackled didn’t feel like anything. It wasn’t until I watched the game back and woke up the next day that I realised how sore I was.
“My neck felt like it had been hit like a bus, but the rest of my body felt pretty good. I’m lucky that I spent most of Monday sitting down.”