On Friday night, rugby league fans were treated to a double-header to kick off the representative round. The first match began at 5:30pm and saw the Australian Jillaroos take on the Kiwi Ferns.
This was followed by the Australian Kangaroos taking on the New Zealand Kiwis.
Do not underestimate the power of words. Significantly, the evening was billed as a double-header. For the first time, instead of the Jillaroos being called the ‘curtain-raiser’ or ‘pre-cursor’ to the men’s game, both fixtures were seen on equal footing, each worthy of being considered the main event.
By calling the fixtures a double-header, the NRL sent a strong message about its continued commitment to the promotion and development of the women’s game.
But they say actions speak louder than words and it was certainly true on Friday night, because while rugby league fans were treated to a double-header, the games were shown in the wrong order.
Instead of televising the Jillaroos match live from 5:30pm, Channel Nine decided to show it on delay. The match didn’t even begin after the conclusion of the men’s game, fans had to wait at least 20 minutes for post-match interviews and celebrations.
The Jillaroos game did not begin until well after 10pm and ended past midnight, meaning reduced exposure.
This was not the only error Channel Nine made on the night. Not only was the match shown on delay, but commentary of the men’s game began with Ray Warren announcing what an exciting contest the women’s game had been and revealed the result, despite many people avoiding social media to watch the match later that evening.
Then, to add to my frustration, the morning after saw The Daily Telegraph decide it would be more appropriate to include three full pages on the men’s result and only a short column on the result of the women’s game, despite the Jillaroos game being a far more exciting contest.
Don’t get me wrong, I see how far we have come. I recognise what an important step it was to have the match televised at all and the importance of coverage (no matter how small) of the women’s game in print media. But the weekend’s events demonstrated to me that we still have a long way to go.
When it comes to women’s sport, I have heard all the excuses about its lack of coverage – there is no money in women’s sport and women are not as strong, fit or capable as men. My favourite though has always been that people do not have any interest in women’s sport.
People will not have any interest in women’s sport until they are exposed to it, and showing the game so late on a Friday evening (after Rabs had revealed the result) shows a lack of commitment to the women’s code.
Despite this, I was so encouraged on Friday night to see my Twitter feed alive with discussion about why Channel Nine had decided not to televise the game live. Fans wanted the opportunity to see the Jillaroos take on the Kiwi Ferns live. This absolutely flies in the face of the myth that people do not have any interest in women’s sport.
There is a growing appetite for the women’s game among the fan-base and I am hopeful that this growing appetite will encourage the broadcasters to have the courage to take a chance. The reality is, without exposure we cannot expect the game to grow.
If Friday night’s game was anything to go by, should our broadcasters take a chance on the women’s game, the audience will follow. Those who tuned into the game, whether live via the NRL’s digital pass or on delay, were treated to a fantastic match.
While there was discussion surrounding the quality of the men’s game and the ageing Kangaroos team, there was no such disappointment about the women’s game.
Despite losing to the Kiwi Ferns 26-16, the game was extremely entertaining. With eight tries scored, the match was dynamic and full of tremendous displays of attacking prowess, while the New Zealanders, in particular, showed real commitment in defence.
Standouts for the Kiwi Ferns included young five-eighth Georgia Hale, whose constant involvement was critical to her side’s attacking success. Winger Atawhai Tupaea scored a double and helped her team go into the halftime break with a 12-6 lead, despite trailing early after Jillaroo Maddie Studdon scored in the seventh minute.
For the Jillaroos, captain Ruan Sims was inspirational from the front. She put her body on the line over and over again, to the extent that she fronted the post-match media conference with a swollen eye. Karina Brown scored a double and Sammy Bremner, our speedy fullback, was full of gusto as she zipped around the field.
In the end, the Jillaroos were outmuscled by a stronger Kiwi Ferns pack, but with young talent like Kezie Apps and Studdon, the future certainly bodes well.
While I may have been left tired and disappointed due to the delay, I am still hopeful about the future and look forward to a time when I have the opportunity to purchase a Jillaroos jersey and cheer my team on live. I’ll then wake up the next morning to a photo of Apps in the paper celebrating a Karina Brown try with her teammates.
When this happens, we will be one step closer to having players like Kezie Apps, Maddie Studdon, Sammy Bremner and Ruan Sims become household names, just like Corey Parker, Johnathan Thurston and Semi Radradra.
This is @mary__kaye from @ladieswholeague.