By SARAH NORTON
Rugby league history was made on Sunday.
And before you bolt because the thought of football makes you yawn, hear me out.
Last weekend, the Australian women’s rugby league team (the Jillaroos) became the first ever women’s team to be paid for playing in a test match. They got $37, 500 less than the men’s team, but it’s still breaking all records.
The game on Sunday was one of the biggest in women’s rugby league history for other reasons too. It was the first clash between Australia and New Zealand since the Jillaroos had beaten the Kiwis to win the World Cup in July last year. And the game was a precursor to the men’s Australia versus Samoa Four Nations Rugby League match.
The women’s game was live streamed on the NRL website and 16, 000 people viewed it. An impressive crowd of 8,000 fans trekked to the stadium to watch the girls live. These figures are huge – and they’re only going to get bigger as the women’s rugby league begins to really take off in Australia.
I chatted to Women’s rugby league captain, Stephanie Hancock, to find out how she got into rugby league, the support she gets from her family and what male rugby league players can learn from the women.
Here’s what she had to say.
STEPH: Mainly because I grew up watching dad’s old tapes and watching him playing origin and on the Kangaroo tours, (Dad is Rohan Hancock who played Rugby League for Australia and Queensland).
As a little girl I always went to the local footy and started playing with my little brother Josh, which turned into me playing for the under seven, eight and nines.
In 2003, I organised a women’s footy game at Killarney (in Queensland) and we had the biggest crowd Killarney Rugby League had seen for years. We managed to raise $10,000 and invested from there.
I did have to talk mum into letting me play and she eventually agreed, which took a while as I was always her little girl.
Last week I was made captain of the Jillaroos which was a really important moment for me. Mum and Dad came down from Queensland to watch me play. They drove 13 hours to Sydney to watch the game. Afterwards they came into the dressing room, kissed me and then they drove back.
S: Is it as rough as we think it is?
STEPH: I have seen a fair few injuries, so it is pretty physical and can be rough, but it is important to understand that there is still a strategy to the game.