High Profile Gestures Towards Womens Game Mean Nothing Without Grassroots Work

In the past I have been critical of the “Women In League” movement by the National Rugby League simply because I think it too focused on having high profile media events and morning teas and it didn’t really focus on, you know, women who actually play Rugby League and those who are involved in Rugby League.

I wrote about the need to have a national womens competition that was built to be sustainable over the long term, and thankfully it seems the powers that be are moving in that direction…slowly but surely.

The problem is that all of this good work means nothing if it only scratches the surface. Womens Rugby League isn’t just about media opportunities, it is about women who play Rugby League at all levels being able to enjoy the game.

Steve Mascord recently wrote about a disgraceful situation that saw a number of womens international Rugby League teams being asked to fund their own way to a World Cup qualifying tournament that was announced at the last minute. They were then asked to play up to three games in one day. This resulted in a number of nations forfeiting games and the qualification tournament turned into an absolute farce.

As terribly as Rugby League is run, I know this would not have been allowed to happen in a mens Rugby League World Cup qualifying tournament. I can not even imagine what players must have felt, having organised at the last minute to be available

I personally find it a little strange to say “Womens Rugby League” because to me, if you’re a Rugby League player, you’re a Rugby League player. Your gender shouldn’t come into it.

In that regard women should expect to have the same access to facilities and enjoy the same level of administration that the rest of the game enjoys. There should never be a case where Womens Rugby League has to “make do” or is seen as an afterthought by administrators simply because of the gender of the athletes involved.

That seems to be exactly what happened in this case…

Many other sports are well ahead of Rugby League in terms of setting up and maintaining domestic and international competitions for female athletes. Changes are being made, but obviously in some areas the game is severely lacking.

Who ever was in charge of making the rushed, last minute decision that cost these international teams the opportunity to represent their nations in a full capacity should lose their job. This type of mess simply can not be tolerated in a sport that has the money to make sure these problems don’t happen any more.

Womens Rugby League should never be an afterthought. It shouldn’t just be important when there are cameras around for officials to stand in front of and earn brownie points. This disaster of a competition should have been just as important as the high profile matches between Australia and New Zealand. The players involved deserved that.

Hopefully many lessons can be taken from this mess. Hopefully this is never allowed to happen again.

The next time I see a Women In League round, the next time I see officials at a photo opportunity talking about the importance of the womens game, this is what I will think about.

All of the high profile media opportunities that officials love to be involved in mean nothing if Womens Rugby League is allowed to be run so poorly when there are no cameras around.

Our female athletes that love this sport just as much as the men do deserve so much better than this…

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