PUBLISHED BY DAVID - HARVEY'S HQ STAFF WRITER
The 2017 Harvey Norman Women in League Round, occurring in Round 20 (July 20th– 23rd), is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the many roles women play at all levels and in all areas of the great game of Rugby League, particularly their contributions at a grassroots level.
Established by the NRL in 2007, the vision for Women in League was to ensure that women and girls continue to be included, respected and engaged equally in all aspects of Rugby League life.
Over 190,000 women and girls are participating in all forms of Rugby League – including Touch, Tag and Tackle. With female participation the fastest growing category in the game, the NRL believes it is more crucial than ever to continue to build a platform for further participation and engagement of female athletes, fans and administrators.
2017 marks the 11th year of Women in League and the Harvey Norman partnership. This year sees a focus on the next generation of women in our game. With that focus in mind, we’re proud to shine a spotlight on three women who are part of this new wave.
Chelsea Baker, who captained the Gladstone Wallabies to a premiership in 2016, is a Jillaroo and World All Stars representative. Working part time for the NRL as a Game Development Officer, Chelsea also coaches a local Junior League team and fits in her duties as a mother of two.
Hailing from Gladstone, Chelsea will be playing on the wing for the Harvey Norman Queensland Women’s team for the upcoming annual Women’s Interstate Challenge match. This will be part of a double-header in this year’s Women in League Round with the St George Illawarra Dragons versus Manly Sea Eagles game at WIN Stadium on Sunday July 23rd.
Another talented Queensland winger, Marikki Watego is a NRL Touch Football player who made her debut with the Australian Women’s Open Team in the 2012 Trans-Tasman Series and has since played over 20 internationals for her country, being part of the team that won the 2015 World Championship.
Scoring a double in both Game 2 and 3 of the 2017 Trans-Tasman Series, Australia won the Women’s Open division in a 3-0 clean sweep. This year Marikki also had the honour of captaining the TFA Indigenous All Stars team. Outside her football commitments, Marikki is pursuing a career in commercial law with an aim towards helping Indigenous people start and maintain their own businesses.
Another product of local touch football competitions and a native of footy-mad Rockhampton, Belinda Sleeman has now been a regular on the touchlines of NRL games for the last 18 months and was the first woman on the sidelines for a Test Match when she officiated in the Fiji versus Tonga international this year.
Apart from her role as a first-grade touch judge, Belinda also referees under-20s matches as well as NSW and Queensland Cup games on a weekly basis. A journalism graduate, Belinda’s day job is Marketing Communications Manager with Queensland Touch Football.
Female Participation Statistics (2016)
• 180,000+ girls and women playing Rugby League across Australia (in schools and Clubs)
• 232,800+ girls and women playing touch football across Australia
• 482,000+ girls and women involved in playing the game across Australia (touch, tag or tackle)
• 2,000+ female coaches, sports trainers and referees involved in the game across Australia
• More than 5,200 registered female volunteers involved in the game across Australia
• More than 90 female-only Rugby League competitions across Australia
• 68,000+ female members across the 16 NRL Clubs
• Female participation is the fastest growing area of the game, up 27% on 2015
• At a board level, the NRL has one female commissioner (Catherine Harris) and New South Wales Rugby League has one female board member (Deborah Healey). Across the 16 NRL clubs, there are 13 female board members, including two Chairwomen (Rebecca Frizelle, Gold Coast Titans and Marina Go, Wests Tigers)
• There are numerous women working, delivering and supporting our game at executive level
Harvey Norman is a proud sponsor of the NRL and Women in League Round. Celebrations will occur across Round 20 (July 20th – 23rd), with a highlight being the double-header on Sunday July 23rd at WIN Stadium in Wollongong where the Women’s Interstate Challenge – a NSW vs QLD State of Origin match – will kick off at 11.45am, followed by the St George Illawarra Dragons vs Manly Sea Eagles game at 2.05pm.
See you at the game!