August 2021 Featured

Women’s Rugby League: Breaking The Grass Ceiling

From getting changed in stadium carparks to selling out State of Origin matches, women’s rugby league has come a long way.

“I remember representing NSW, we had to get dressed in a carpark. We were playing at Penrith Stadium, but we weren’t allowed into the actual stadium or the dressing sheds, we had to get dressed out in the carpark,” says current New South Wales women’s coach Kylie Hilder.

The Blues mentor has been in and around the game for over 20 years, watching it grow from an afterthought of the governing body, to now selling out State of Origin games and having its own national competition.

She has represented her state and country while also working as a development officer for the NRL in the Hunter region. Alongside her coaching position, she is also the female pathways development manager for the NSWRL.

Hilder adds that when she was first representing New South Wales and Australia 11 years ago, the women weren’t even given their own jerseys. They were often left overs from the junior and senior male representative sides.

“We were putting on jerseys that were basically hand-me-downs from a boys or a men’s side, they were five times too big. We went across to New Zealand to play for the Jillaroos and we were given jerseys that were just an old set of men’s jerseys, no one knew we were over there.”

The 1920s

Women’s rugby league in Australia isn’t a new thing. 2021 marks 100 years since the first sanctioned and organised women’s rugby league matches were played under the New South Wales Rugby League.

From getting changed in stadium carparks to selling out State of Origin matches, women’s rugby league has come a long way . . .

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