• Owen's Opinion. (Barbara McGrady)Source: Barbara McGrady
The contribution women have made and continue to make to rugby league is enormous and we should also recognise the massive connection to Indigenous Australian women too, says premiership-winning former player and Over the Black Dot co-host Owen Craigie.
Owen Craigie

7 Aug 2018 - 4:19 PM  UPDATED 7 Aug 2018 - 4:19 PM

It’s the 10th year of the NRL’s Women in League round and what a thing to celebrate.

It’s grown so much and Women in League over the last two to three years has really skyrocketed and it’s a great thing - we’ve got a lot of young girls playing the game of Rugby League today and it gives them aspirations to one day play NRL.

But also for all the mums and other women that enjoy the game and are at the local grounds on the weekends – setting up the canteen and cleaning up after the kids, cooking the food and dropping the boys and girls at sport all around the country.

I just think it’s great that Women in League are being recognised and it’s a big thank you for everyone else and all the women that are in league and are involved in this great game to keep going.

The connection to Indigenous Australians is massive too.


Indigenous Women in League

The women’s Rugby League at the Koori Knockout is the biggest spectacle of the Koori Knockout, and it has been for the last 10 or 12 years, since women’s Rugby League came into the tournament.

The Knockout’s in Dubbo this year. Pop down and have a look and you’ll see for yourself, but the Friday and Saturday competitions are bigger than the men’s competition.

It’s grown so much and now there’s up around 30 or 40 women’s team in the Koori Knockout. So you think about that and then representing the whole state of NSW and representing over 100 communities, just this way with the women’s competition.

The revolution happening on the field, the driver of that really has been from women’s Indigenous Rugby League.

Women’s Rugby League, and lot of people may not agree with me, but I’m certain that women’s Rugby League has grown in status so much in this country because of the Koori Knockout. It stems from the Koori Knockout and with the ripple effect it’s just got bigger and bigger.

Caitlin Moran and all these young girls stepped onto the scene in the national women’s competitions and they were steppin left and right and chip’n and chasing, throwing spiral balls left and right. Ten or 12 years ago in the Koori Knockout people in pubs and clubs and homes all around the country were going: ‘Oh wow this is great, we want to see more women and big hits’.

People weren’t used to it but we’ve seen it all our lives growing up in our communities.

And then from that, obviously NRL and NSW Rugby League and Touch Rugby League have realised that this is big business and can be a career for women and that’s where it stems from.

For the Women in League round in the NRL, the progression of the recognition and the way we represent each other is very special because we’ve always thought about the young boys playing on the weekend but now it’s just as much about the girls too.

My young boy plays footy on the weekend and there are these two young girls also playing and they’re the best two players in their footy team.

So these young girls who are playing under-8s, it’s the same for all these other young girls, when they become teenagers, the NRL are going to have women’s teams and playing professionally. How good’s that?

We’re providing more options for quality in life, not just sport, and for these young girls to be able to do that, it’s so important to recognise women in league. All the mums all around the country, it’s a big thank you to say without you guys, sometimes there is no competition, because you are the first there and the last to leave.


Referee Abuse

Also this week I just want to quickly touch on something else, and that’s the really sad news about referee Matt Cecchin feeling forced to retire because of sustained abuse of the officials, and death threats he received after the Tonga vs England semi-final at the World Cup last year.

What he’s done, you’ve got to put your family first. You’ve got to be protecting your family and you can’t be getting death threats, that’s not on.

The abuse of referees affects things at all levels of the game. It can’t be happening at junior rugby league or schoolboy sport, and it shouldn’t be getting out of hand at the top level.

When people are abusing referees at NRL, that behaviour trickles through to all levels.

We get to see some of these great players and go and watch them, and kids are also in the grandstand that want to become referees. We’ve also got to show good examples and protect their investments.

Not only have you got to look after your players but you’ve also got to protect the referees as well.


Owen Craigie is a Gamilaroi man and former NRL star. Owen has played for the Newcastle Knights, Wests Tigers and South Sydney Rabbitohs. He is co-host of NITV's weekly Rugby League panel program, Over The Black Dot.

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