• Boomanulla Raiders Women's team. (Supplied by Beth Cooper)Source: Supplied by Beth Cooper
The Boomanulla Raiders Club are hoping for accountability after their female players experienced racial abuse at a women's rugby league competition.
Nadine Silva

20 Aug 2021 - 12:18 PM  UPDATED 20 Aug 2021 - 6:44 PM

WARNING: This story contains details that may be distressing to some readers.

The Katrina Fanning Shield is of significant importance to the women of Canberra’s Boomanulla Raiders, but the competition on 31 July left them defeated in more ways than one. 

After travelling to the South West Slopes of New South Wales to play against the Harden Worhawks, the team’s high hopes were crushed by a group of men yelling from the sidelines.

“Dirty black dogs! C***s! F*** off back to Canberra,” they were heard screaming.

Boomanulla Raiders centre Beth Cooper, a Wiradjuri woman, said what she heard made her feel small.

“That's the land of my ancestors, and to be spoken to like that by white men on black land, it was really hurtful,” Ms Cooper said.

To add to her pain, Harden is where her father, who died by suicide, is buried.

Before the ground manager issued a warning to the spectators for their conduct, Ms Cooper says women on the opposing team told them to settle down.

While she said it put an end to their racial slurs, continuing to play in front of the group proved to be a challenge.

“I decided to take a week off after that. It had more of an impact on me than I thought it would.”

Ms Cooper says the Worhawks apologised to them after the match. 

“The ladies were really good but you can't apologise for somebody else's behaviour.”

Accountability on hold

Wiradjuri man and former Boomanulla Raiders player Dale Huddleston questions why the spectators weren’t removed from the game. 

“If a referee came to us and said someone had to go, well, we’d get rid of them,” he said.

The NRL’s Code of Conduct says that clubs are not just responsible for the conduct of their players, coaches and officials, but of their spectators too. 

“We have to look at why Harden did not eject them from the oval. The reason being is, I believe they knew who they were,” Mr Huddleston said. 

The Boomanulla Raiders said they filed an incident report to the Canberra Region Rugby League (CRRL) on 2 August, after they were informed the grounds manager on the day of the match had lodged his own. 

Bigambul woman and Boomanulla Raiders secretary Esma Livermore said she’s disappointed she hasn’t received an update on the investigation in more than two weeks.

‘This has to stop’

“As an Indigenous club that's competed since 1989, we've had to deal with racism every time we travel out to these country towns,” Ms Livermore said.

But Mr Huddleston said this particular incident has affected the club deeply.

“How can you be a spectator and abuse a woman as a male?” he asks.

“There is racial vilification, absolutely, but there's also violence against women."

“When we call out racism, we should be the first ones to be believed,” Ms Livermore said.

Ms Cooper is also hoping for the organisation to show a sign of support to the 12 per cent of NRL players who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

“I just want to know that they have a hard stance against racism and something will actually be done to make Indigenous players feel like they belong in the game,” she said.

“We’re not going to forget that they abused our girls,” Mr Huddleston said.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, visit lifeline.org.au or find an Aboriginal Medical Service here. Resources for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can be found at Headspace: Yarn Safe.

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