New reasons to celebrate Women In League round

This article was first written and published for NRL.com.

We are just five weeks away from the commencement of the NRL’s inaugural women’s competition in September. Whilst we still don’t know the draw or where games will be played, we do know the rosters for each of the four teams competing (New Zealand Warriors, St George Illawarra Dragons, Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos) and we also know that these teams started training last week thanks to some great social content being put out by the clubs.

When I talk about women’s sport, one of my key views is that we need to celebrate how far we have come whilst never forgetting how far we still have to go.

Referee basher? Get out and don’t come back

This article was first written for and published for The Roar.

How many games of rugby league did you watch on the weekend?

Usually when someone asks me that question, I answer with three or four at least.

This weekend, I watched one game – the least I have watched in many years. It was only my sheer devotion to the Parramatta Eels that saw me tune in to their game against the Gold Coast Titans on Saturday afternoon.

Why I hope Women In League round will become redundant

This article was first written for NRL.com

Next week is my favourite regular round of the rugby league season – Women in League Round. This round gives us an opportunity to celebrate the tremendous contributions that women make across our game and to recognise the increasing and influential role of women in the rugby league family.

Often when people ask me about my own personal goals around ‘Women in League’ round I tell them I hope at some point down the line the round is no longer required because the role of women in the game is so entrenched, it doesn’t need to be called out anymore.

In a league of their own

This story was first written and published for the Walkley Magazine

When I started Ladies Who League five years ago, with the intention of encouraging more women to get involved in conversations about rugby league, I never imagined how much a small blog would change my life. That small blog has expanded my heart, turned me into a more confident version of myself, and taught me to embrace the word “feminist”.

I have loved rugby league since I was eight years old. I wanted to spend more time with my dad and brothers on the weekend. Because they watched the footy, I started to. I remember curling up in my dad’s lap and, over time, I learnt the rules and adopted the mighty Parramatta Eels as my team. I’ve been a goner ever since.

When I began my Ladies Who League blog in June 2013, it was almost entirely focused on the men’s game because, at that point, men’s sport was all I knew. But looking back now, I feel a sense of shame that through all those years of supporting the Eels it never crossed my mind to ask: “Why aren’t there any women playing rugby league?” Pulling on a pair of boots myself wasn’t something I’d contemplated, because you can’t be what you can’t see. And I couldn’t see women playing rugby league.

I first found out about a talented group of women called the Jillaroos, the Australian women’s rugby league team, after their success at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. I knew that if I didn’t know about them, then very few footy fans would, despite them having competed internationally since the early 1990s.

It was time to change focus. Over time, Ladies Who League has become much more than a blog that focuses on the men’s game and the prominent women involved in the administration of rugby league. It has become a movement about the untold stories of women in our game, particularly those who play. And there is the underlying message that however you want to be involved in rugby league, you are welcome and there is a place for you.

Now Ladies Who League is an online news platform that delivers content via social media (particularly Twitter and Instagram), articles for outlets such as NRL.com and The Roar, and a podcast that is part of the ABC Grandstandfamily. It has also expanded into other sports through spin-offs such as Ladies Who Legspin, Ladies Who Lineout and Ladies Who Leap. Altogether, that helps me to reach over 1 million eyes a month.

As women’s sport continues to gain prominence, there is growing appetite for content on our female athletes and the stories behind their successes. It’s a privilege to be able to help contribute to the conversation.

Along the way I have met some outstanding women that remind me just how varied the involvement of women is in rugby league. If ever I’m asked why I like rugby league so much, I point to these women and say “I want to be like them”.

They are women like Rebecca Doyle and Eleni North, who sit in the NRL’s senior management team and speak out on the importance of all forms of diversity and inclusion.

Or Helen Wood-Grant, who is on the board of the Men of League Foundation — an organisation that provides assistance to the men, women and children in the rugby league family who have fallen on hard times. Helen is also a passionate advocate for women’s footy.

There are plenty of people who demand more for women playing rugby league — particularly when it comes to broadcast and visibility. But often those same people are missing when it comes to putting their bum on a seat and actually watching women’s footy. Wood-Grant is not one of those people — she was at every single game the Jillaroos played last year in the Rugby League World Cup.

Then there are Kasey Badger and Belinda Sleeman, who are part of the emerging referees’ squad and are, hopefully, not far from making their NRL debut as main officials.

Women are also leading the way at our clubs. Two that come to mind are Marina Go, who chairs the Wests Tigers board, and Lynne Anderson, who is chair of the Canterbury Bulldogs. They are two women I admire immensely, with Go always reminding me to “say yes and then work it out later”.

There are women in media, who have become such a regular fixture in our NRL coverage — Yvonne Sampson, Hannah Hollis, Lara Pitt, Jess Yates, Erin Molan, Emma Lawrence and Danika Mason, just to name a few.

And, of course, there are our Australian Jillaroos. When people ask who inspires me, I often say that it is female athletes. I carry these women as a beacon inside me, reminding me to always chase what I love and to pursue a life with purpose. So many of these women have played sport without pay, while juggling many other commitments, simply because it is what they love. That is inspiring.

Do we care about the health and wellbeing of our referees?

This article was first written for and published for The Roar.

It was two Fridays ago that a decision was made during the Canberra Raiders-Cronulla Sharks game that stirred up refereeing controversy the likes of which rugby league has not seen since, well, a little earlier this year.

But while we were all debating just how wrong that decision was and what the game needed to do to fix its apparent refereeing problem, touch judge Rickey McFarlane was inconsolable in the dressing room after the game and was so distressed following the game that he was too shaken to drive home.

For that authentic footy feeling – get to Henson Park

This story was first written for and published by NRL.com.

When I close my eyes and think about rugby league, I see a swirl of images in my head.

Among more recent memories of women’s rugby league and some older memories of my team playing finals footy, I flash back to a small eight year-old with blue and gold ribbons in her hair, holding her dad’s hand as they walked through the streets to watch the Eels at Parramatta Stadium.

I remember sitting with dad on the hill, cheering my favourite players like Clinton Schifcofske and Shane Whereat and then joining the other kids in running to the top of the hill, rolling down and then repeating over and over.

Women’s World Cups part of NSW’s strategic bidding plans

This article was first written and published for The Roar.

This week the New South Wales government signalled its intention to be a heavy hitter in the sporting event space over the next ten years with a strategic decision announced on Monday to bid for ten world cups in the next ten years.

When it comes to women’s sport, I always say it is important to celebrate how far we have come, while continuing to strive to be better because we still have a very long way to go.

If refereeing is broken, how do we fix it?

This article was first written for and published for The Roar.

Rugby league, we have a problem.

On Friday night at Southern Cross Group Stadium there was a costly error made by the officials in the game between the Cronulla Sharks and the Canberra Raiders. The error has left many members of the rugby league community feeling very angry.

The Raiders ended up losing the game 28-24 and Raiders fans must accept that their teams season is over.

If refereeing is broken, how do we fix it?

This article was first written and published for the Roar

Rugby league, we have a problem.

On Friday night at Southern Cross Group Stadium there was a costly error made by the officials in the game between the Cronulla Sharks and the Canberra Raiders. The error has left many members of the rugby league community feeling very angry.

Lewis gets universal respect for champion career on and off field

This story was first written for NRL.com.

It has been many years since a rugby league player has come along that has captured the hearts and minds of footy fans in the way that Luke Lewis has done so.

There have been bigger stars over the span of his career even though his career resume is very impressive but it’s what he’s done away from the field that sets him apart in my view.

When Luke announced his retirement at the end of 2018 earlier this week on NRL 360, I watched as fans from every team took a moment on social media to share their favourite memories of him, and express how much they will miss seeing him on the field.