Women’s sport weekly wrap: Embrace your role model status

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

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    What are your plans on Wednesday night?

    After the announcement earlier this week by Fox Sports that Wednesday night will now be home to League Life – a brand new show on Australia’s first dedicated rugby league channel with an all-female panel, I know exactly what I’ll be doing.

    The show will feature Yvonne Sampson, Lara Pitt, Jessica Yates, Tara Rushton, Megan Barnard and Hannah Hollis talking all things rugby league, from the grass roots to the board room. When I heard that this show was happening, I thought ‘it’s about time’.

    Fox Sports has come a long way in the last five years. When Lara Pitt started at the station in 2012, there were no female presenters in the rugby league space. Now Fox Sports is home to several extremely talented women in rugby league media including all of the women who will feature on this show.

    The NRL is often criticised (unfairly in my view) as being a boy’s club. While we still have a long way to go, I continue to see women being given opportunities in rugby league whether it be to referee (like Kasey Badger), to lead (like Raelene Castle), to play (like Ruan Sims) or to govern like (Marina Go). League Life is another example of such an opportunity.

    It’s interesting to me that Fox Sports CEO, Patrick Delany commented that this show will appeal to men and women. This is stating the obvious. These women are passionate about rugby league, are talented journalists and love the sport, just like any male which features on the rugby league broadcast. They are going to do an outstanding job and I can’t wait to watch.

    Yvonne Sampson

    Introducing Simona de Silvestro
    Last September it was announced that Simona de Silvestro was going to join the Supercars Championship for the 2017 season, making her the first full-time female driver in the series’ recent history. Simona has signed a three-year deal and this news was almost enough to get me interested in motorsport.

    Simona is a talented driver and has seen success in open-wheel racing as well as in the Indycar Series and the Formula E Championship.

    Earlier this week, Simona spoke passionately about women in sport and how determined she was to be a role model for other young women.

    As another woman passionate about women in sport, I am always deeply encouraged when I see other women embrace their status as role models.

    The debate about whether athletes should be role models is one I often find myself in. I am strongly of the view that it’s not really a question worth debating, because the reality is, once a person finds themselves in the public eye (particularly in the sporting space), I think they are a role model and will have people across the community looking up to them.

    This does not put them under obligation to be ‘perfect’ – in my view it places them under an obligation to be decent human beings.

    What I find interesting is that, in general, female athletes seem very willing to embrace this role model status. Women like Alex Blackwell, Michelle Heyman, Sharni Layton, Shelley Watts and Ruan Sims, each in their own way have spoken about how important it is to be a role model not just in their own sports, but for women in general. In particular, Alex Blackwell and Michelle Heyman have embraced being openly gay athletes and are very strong proponents of encouraging people to ‘be themselves’.

    Sometimes I wish that the small minority of our male athletes who seem to rally against their ‘status’ as role models would embrace it as passionately and fiercely as these women do.

    Congratulations to the Melbourne City FC Women and captain coach Jess Fishlock who defeated the Perth Glory Women 2-0 in the W-League grand final last Sunday.

    What was most encouraging for me however was the final broadcast figures which were announced earlier this week.

    The game was attended by 4,591 people and watched by 165,000 on Fox Sports and 275,000 on ABC – this totalled 440,000 just on television. These figures meant that the previous attendance record and ratings record were both smashed.

    To me, these figures say that people are absolutely interested in the W-League and women’s football. I hope that next year, there is a greater focus on increased broadcast of games (whether that be on television or on social media) and ensuring consistency of venue so that we can work towards maximising eyes on the W-League both from at the stadium and at home.


    Super Netball is here!
    The wait is over. This weekend the Super Netball competition launches. Netball is not a sport I have watched much of in the past, but it is a bit hard not to get carried away. This competition presents another opportunity for women to be involved and celebrated in their chosen sport.

    I, of course, am on team Giants and am looking forward to watching Sydney’s next biggest rivalry erupt tomorrow night when the Giants take on the Sydney Swifts.

    If you haven’t watched netball before, there has never been a better time to get into the sport. This competition will be broadcast in a way not yet seen before with Channel Nine televising a double-header live on Saturday night and then featuring two delayed games. Telstra will broadcast two exclusive matches per week and simulcast Nine’s two live matches. All games will be available live on a ‘Netball Live’ mobile app.

    And then there are the players on the court who are some of the best in the world – players like Kimberlee Green, Susan Pettitt and Sharni Layton.

    One final tip for players – if you get the opportunity to tune in and listen to Sharni Layton commentate a game, make sure you do. Laughs guaranteed or your money back.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.