The four Burgess brothers with their mother Julie. She'd go and watch them do anything, ballroom dancing included. Photo: Brendan Esposito
A set of six reasons why the NRL’s Women in League round is irrelevant:
It’s kind of condescending
Why do organisations think that if you throw a bit of pink at something and say we’re celebrating women, women will be happy? Why isn’t there a week during which the NRL celebrates disabled people, or people of colour, or, indeed, homosexuality? I get Heritage Round and Rivalry Round, these are about history and the game. Women in League Round is a bit of a token gesture. I think the league’s move to ensure there is a woman on the board of each club is a fantastic idea but not if that woman’s not up to the job. Nor should media outlets employ female journalists to cover rugby league, or indeed any sport, if they’re not up to it. Women are happy when they’re treated as equals. We don’t need a round to remind us that, actually, we’re not.
It’s never going to get more women to the games
Women who like rugby league go to games. Women who don’t like rugby league find something else to do. Providing special tents, one round a year, where you can go and get your nails done while you have a champagne, will not bring women back the week after. Reduced ticket prices will. When times are tough it’s usually mum who stays at home with the kids who don’t really want to go. Dad takes the others. Younger girls will go if, a) their menfolk are keen, or b) if they’re keen on the menfolk who go. That’s about hormones, not football.
Konrad Hurrell selfie sextape wasn't smart, but it's hardly the 'scandal' the NRL are suggesting it is. Photo: Getty Images
It's all about mums
But we don’t need a special round. It’s a bit like Mother’s Day. Do you really think one breakfast in bed a year makes up for all the other shit you dish out? From the moment you watch your son play his first game, to the day when you’re the one in the canteen at 5pm on a Sunday trying to clear out the last of the hot dogs, mums are involved in rugby league. But it could be any sport. Mums like to watch their kids play, watch them compete. I can only imagine how Julie Burgess’ heart must burst each weekend when she watches her four sons, Luke, Sam, Tom and George, run out to play. I can only imagine the heartache Karen Morris endures when her sons Josh and Brett play against each other. But I bet they’d be there watching them do ballroom dancing, too.
If you want to say thanks
Then say thanks. Say thanks to your mum every time she drives you to training or to games. Every time she washes your uniform or gets ice for your knee. Say thanks to the ladies running the water. Say thanks to the ladies in the canteen when they pass you your killer python. In fact, say thanks to everyone, regardless of their gender. There are plenty of people who make rugby league the great game it is and only half of them are women.
It doesn’t make us forget about the latest scandal
So there are some men out there who don’t treat women very nicely. That’s not a league thing. Sure, it’s disappointing when a story breaks about the latest incident involving a player, but no more or less when it’s a story involving Joe Bloggs from down the road. And if we’re honest, working with a sample pool of a few hundred blokes isn’t going to change the world. That’s up to the mums, see above, who should raise sons into men who will treat women nicely.
Let’s try not to pigeonhole women
And speaking of the latest scandal, the Warriors Konrad Hurrell’s selfie sex tape with his girlfriend, actress Teuila Blakely, highlights all these troubles in a few Snapchat minutes. Women can be involved in rugby league, but only in the way we think they should be, is the message I'm getting. Sure, it might not have been the smartest thing to do, but kids do that sort of thing now. We just didn’t have phones back in the day. They were consenting adults and I loved it that Blakely came out and said as much. Good on you, girl. NRL chief operating officer Jim Doyle got on his high horse and rabbitted on about how the video was potentially damaging to the game, saying mothers would be "put off" letting their little kids play. Oh, please. Perhaps mothers are more concerned about raising sons, and daughters, who’d have more sense than to Snapchat it. Go ahead and do it, sex can be good fun. You know what, some women like sex for just that reason. Just like they like rugby league for what it is. The greatest game on earth.
Let’s move on to round 11.