Almanac Rugby League – Women’s Rugby League: Origin surprise

Well, that was a surprise.

I insisted we watch at least the start of the Women’s Origin because, as I grandiosely announced, this is a piece of HISTORY PEOPLE. I ended up enjoying it, and not only for the fact that finally women were playing footy on such a stage. I enjoyed the football.

I am not a League person. Not now. I spent my younger years watching it on telly, because it was the main sport televised in my small country town on the Far North Coast of NSW. One game was shown each week, on a Sunday night. I was a Parramatta fan. They won a lot in the 80s. One of my brothers had a Cronulla jersey once because he liked Dane Sorenson and another had a Wests jumper, another Balmain. We hated Canterbury, Parramatta’s main rivals in those days.

“They wear aluminium shoulder pads,” my brother told me confidently.

“Cheats!” I said.

We never played the game.

“You’re not playing that,” my Dad said, “it’s a mugs game”.

Now, I never watch it on telly. I do talk to my trainer about it. He’s a Souths man. Die hard. Since he’s had a kid, he seems to have reined in his passion. Other stuff matters.

I can’t stand the cheerleaders. Why in heck do they need them? I can’t stand the way Channel 9 seems to add crowd sound effects as a player approaches a tackle. I can’t stand the way the players seem to continually get into trouble off-field, where women are treated poorly. Surely, of all games, there is no place for women, not yet. Not until they clean up their act.

I was wrong.

There was an honesty and straight forward approach to the Origin game. They play was skilful, committed. At the end of the game you could see the exhaustion, but both teams just ploughed on. I wanted to watch it. The football sucked me in.

The League, and dare I say it, Channel 9, allowed this game to just happen, to be enjoyed as football. The way in which the commentators spoke about the game seemed to focus solely on the play. It put some of the AFWL commentary in the shade, with its insistence on talking about anything except the play happening in front of their eyes. Too many background stories, not enough putting us into the moment, giving us a sense of what is happening there at the ground.

Later on Twitter, I heard the captain of NSW lost her job this week, made to choose between playing Origin and a job. The bubble quickly burst. That’s right, nothing big has changed, but this game made a significant mark.

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A Swans AFL member and a GWS AFLW member, quickly developing conflicting allegiances. Trying to finish a PhD but footy keeps getting in the way. Mother to a teenage half-forward who sometimes plays at half-back.


  1. Georgina, I like the honesty with which you write about this significant game, that you watched it primarily because it was historical, not because you like rugby league; that you then enjoyed it almost against your best intentions; that you appreciated it in spite of your preference for Australian football. There’s also the sting in the tail of your story which is also a sorry tale indeed about women in sport in Australia.

    I enjoyed the way the game was played: two very capable teams ripping into each other and demonstrating all the skills. The two half-backs were great in contrasting styles. Queensland had a slight edge in the forwards (didn’t those two packs stick it to each other?) while the outside backs of NSW were all speed (a bit like the NSW men’s team). As they say in the classics, neither side left anything out on the field.

    Mostly, however, I enjoyed the lack of histrionics by the players. They were committed to the game, that was their focus, that’s where their full energy and effort was employed, that was the source of their pleasure. It’s as if they appreciated that this was their opportunity to showcase the women’s game and they weren’t about to let the chance slip. They did themselves, the code and, dare I say it, their gender proud.

    And, yes, even the commentary got it pretty right.

    Given the quality of the game last night, I think this reworking of the long-standing women’s interstate competition is here to stay. The make-up of the crowd reflected a lot of interest among young females, so the makings of a future is there. We can only hope that ‘the suits’ don’t hijack it into becoming ‘a product’.

  2. Georgina says

    Thanks Ian. Your description of the game is perfect. The lack of histrionics was noticeable, but I find it is notable for its absence in most women’s football of all codes. Compare international women’s football (soccer) with the men’s version. Diving is nowhere near a problem.

    Agree also – let’s hope the suits don’t try to tamper with it, to change fundamentals of the game, like they seem to enjoy doing with AFLW.

    I am kicking myself that I didn’t go but it did give me the chance to hear the commentary. I hope they do Origin like this every year. Will be there next time.

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