As women start to receive greater recognition for their achievements on the sporting field, the rugby league stars of today are laying a platform for future generations of young girls.
Although it’s been a sassy three years since Justin Trudeau explained why his cabinet was half composed of women by stating that it was 2015, no one has an explanation for why female sports take a back seat in Australia.
Playing local sport on the weekend is a tradition that has embodied Australian culture for decades and yet women still face discouragement from competing in rugby league due to its aggressive nature.
“Rugby league’s always been such a men’s sport, I suppose, with all the contact,” said Meg Ward, one of the World Cup-winning Jillaroos. “[But] the way people look at women is changing.”
There are few initiatives for teenage girls to develop their rugby league skills; many were pushed to play touch footy or netball instead. Sadly, most girl’s schools in Australia do not offer any rugby code to their students.
Meg Ward, until recently, had to drive three hours from Katherine to Darwin to play for the Northern Territory Titan every weekend.
“There was no rugby league for me at the country,” said Ward. “When you love doing something so much, a three-hour drive isn’t really anything.”
Ward starred in the recent inaugural Women’s State of Origin match, which had a record 370,000 viewers on Channel 9. She will also be representing the Australian Defence Force side at the upcoming Harvey Norman Women's National Championships. But if it weren’t for the Royal Navy development program, she would not have been able to start her professional rugby league career.