Celebrating 10 Years of Women in League

2016 marks the 10th year of Women in League and the Harvey Norman partnership.

The Harvey Norman Women in League Round provides an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the role women play at all levels and in all areas of the Rugby League family.


Established in 2007, the Women in League program aims to empower women and to raise awareness of their roles and contributions to the game.

Over 450,000 females have a direct connection with Rugby League – whether it’s as administrators, players, coaches, employees, volunteers or club members. In all aspects, women are at the heart of the game.


To celebrate the 10 year anniversary, we’ll be taking a look back at prominent female milestones in Rugby League.


  • 2004 Katie Page, CEO of Harvey Norman, was appointed to the Board of National Rugby League. Page’s appointment made history, as she was the first woman to become a member of a major sporting board.
  • 2005 Page successfully launched the Women in League Initiative.
  • 2007 The Women in League Achievement Award was introduced to acknowledge women who were making outstanding contributions to the game.
  • 2011 Catherine Harris became the first woman to be appointed to the game’s ruling body. Harris’s credentials in both the worlds of business and government, not to mention her achievements in advocating social change, made her an exceptional choice as commissioner.
  • 2012 The NRL began facilitating ‘Women in League Regional Forums’ across Australia and New Zealand. These forums were established to provide acknowledgment and professional development for female volunteers.
  • 2013 July The Jillaroos won the Women’s Rugby League World Cup for the first time.
  • 2013 July Raelene Castle was chosen as the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs CEO, making her the first woman to run an NRL club in 15 years.
  • 2013 October Corene Strauss was named as the Men of League Foundation’s new (and first ever) female Chief Executive Officer. The foundation’s main purpose is to support men, women and children within the Rugby League community who have fallen on hard times.
  • 2014 October Rebecca Frizelle became the game’s first female chairperson when she was selected for the Gold Coast Titan’s Board of Directors.
  • 2014 October Linda Burney was appointed to the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council as a chairperson to represent the 2014-2017 Reconciliation Action Plan.
  • 2014 September Former sports journalist Belinda Sleeman became the first woman to referee an NRL match. NRL referees manager, Tony Archer, said of Sleeman’s breakthrough, “She is an outstanding talent… There are a lot of talented female officials coming through the ranks, especially with the introduction of the NRL Women in League Officials Program.”
  • 2015 January The Jillaroos played an inaugural 3-match series against the Kiwi Ferns at the Auckland Nines, attracting a whopping 450,000 viewers.
  • 2015 January The NRL launched a pilot Women in League Mentoring Program, with 15 women selected from across the NRL, NRL Clubs and State Leagues with the focus on accelerating the development of women into management and leadership positions.
  • 2015 March The presence of women in league was especially highlighted thanks to the efforts of the four 2015 female NRL Community Ambassadors; Former Jillaroo Captain Karyn Murphy, with current Jillaroos Renae Kunst, Ruan Sims and Tallisha Harden (also the 2015 Indigenous All-Star).
  • 2015 April The Australian Women Open’s and Australian Women’s 27s Touch Football Team went on to the Federation of International Touch World Cup, while the Australia Mixed Touch Football Team, which included six female players, went on to win the Federation of International Touch World Cup.
  • 2015 June Helen Wood-Grant became the first woman to be appointed to the Men of League’s Board.
  • 2015 June The Affiliated States Championships introduced the inaugural women’s tackle
  • 2015 August Touch Football Australia and the National Rugby League partnered to eliminate violence against women through the NRL’s Our Watch program.
  • 2015 September Jenni-Sue Hoepper, Jillaroo five-eighth, won the inaugural Female Player of the Year award at the Dally M’s, an achievement which was lauded as a step in the right direction towards acknowledging and celebrating women’s roles in NRL.
  • 2015 November Anita Hagarty was selected as the first female Chair of Touch Football Australia, after serving as a Board Member for seven years.
  • 2015 December The NRL State of Mind (an organisation that seeks to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and to support those suffering) announced its new line up of Ambassadors, which included Ruan Sims, centre for the Jillaroos, and Samantha Hopkin of Touch Football Australia.
  • 2015 December To top off a huge year for women in League, female club participation hit an all time high, increasing by a massive 26%.
  • 2016 February To kick off 2016, Kasey Badger and Belinda Sleeman became the first female referees to be included in the full-time elite match officials squad.
  • 2016 April Early 2016 also saw NSW introduce a Women’s Pathway System, including a Pathways Program, a women’s second division, additional teams in the Sydney Men’s Competition and the first 13-15 year-old and 16-18 year-old girls’ competition in the Sydney combined competition. This was a significant step forward for the NRL in NSW, as previously there had been nothing on offer for teenage girls.
  • 2016 May The ANZAC Test Matches were billed for the first time as a double header, featuring the Australian Jillaroos, and prompted much conversation about the positive future of women’s rugby league and its rising popularity.


Women have a proud history in the NRL. This last decade has seen a great many successes achieved by women in the game, both on and off the field.

Women are at the heart of the game, in all roles and at all levels. Whether they’re board members, club CEOs, players, referees, ambassadors or volunteers.

In 2016, women are more involved now with the NRL than ever before.


This is a great time for women in sport, and Harvey Norman is proud to celebrate its ten year partnership with Women in League.

Celebrations will occur across the Harvey Norman Women in League Round in Round 22 (August 4 – 8).

See you at the game!