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Minichiello wins Favourite Son

2013 Harvey Norman Favourite Son winner Anthony Minichiello has today paid tribute to the women who helped shape his career as Rugby League celebrates the significant contribution women make across all levels of the game.

Almost 200 women gathered at the launch today of this week’s 2013 Harvey Norman Women in League Round at The Sebel Pier One Sydney where Minichiello was honoured as a player whose ‘integrity and leadership make women proud of the game and inspire more women to become involved’.

Minichiello’s mother Therese Minichiello and his wife Terry Biviano were at the announcement, which sees the Roosters captain join a prestigious list of previous Favoruite Son award winners: Hazem El Masri (2009), Nathan Hindmarsh (2010), Petero Civoniceva (2011) and Luke Burt (2012). All four are working full-time in the game since their retirements.

In a career spanning 13 years, Minichiello has played 260 NRL games, 19 Tests for Australia and 11 matches for NSW, won the Golden Boot Award and two Harry Sunderland Medals and overcome career-threatening injuries to this year captain the Roosters.

“I’m incredibly honoured to receive this award and am so happy to share this day with two amazing women who have played a significant role in my career - my wife Terry and of course my mum Therese,” said Minichiello.

“Women play a vital role in our game from the grassroots level up, and it’s great that the Women in League round gives all the many women involved across the game the recognition they deserve – and it makes this award even more special.”

NRL Chief Executive Dave Smith joined Minichiello at the lunch to celebrate the enormous contribution women make to the game and to acknowledge the increase in female participation in Rugby League across the country.

“This is not a once-a-year marketing exercise, this is about recognising what women do across our game all year, every year,” Mr Smith said.

“For me it is a reminder that not only is the business of Rugby League changing, the face of Rugby League is changing with it … changing to reflect that women are not only the backbone of our game, but a critical part of our future.

“It’s true that women have been involved in this great game since its inception, but the numbers are climbing quickly in terms of participation rates and membership.”

Female participation in Rugby League is at record levels, following a 20 per cent increase in female registrations in 2012 (5,801 in 2012; 4,814 in 2011), and a 100 per cent increase in registered female coaches (172 in 2012; 86 in 2011).

2013 registrations are still being calculated, but early indications show female participation is continuing to increase nationally, while coaching numbers have already risen 50 per cent to 263.

And more than 27,000 girls have participated in NRL game development programs in schools so far in 2013, with that number expected to reach 90,000 by the end of the year.

The increase in participation comes as the Australian Women’s Rugby League (AWRL) begins its integration into the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) for the first time this year.

“It’s an exciting year for women in Rugby League with the Jillaroos travelling to the UK in July to compete in the 2013 Festival of the World Cups, and throughout the country, more and more women are taking up our great game,” said Mr Andrew Hill, NRL General Manager of League Integration and Game Development.

“We are working with the current board of the AWRL to fully integrate the women’s and girl’s game under the ARLC through the Game Development department.

“We are confident this decision will further grow and enhance participation and pathways for girls and women.

“We hope to complete this integration at the conclusion of the women’s World Cup campaign and ready for the start of the 2014 season.”

NRL General Manager of Community, Culture and Diversity, Ms Trish Crews, welcomed the decision as Rugby League celebrates its seventh annual Harvey Norman Women in League Round.

“We have female board members, media managers, physios, dieticians, marketing managers and women even in football operations,” she said.

“In fact the number of women in senior positions has almost doubled what it

was only two years ago. It is a completely different world, although we still

have a way to go.

“With leadership programs, we are trying to bring more women to the management level of our game. This is especially important at the grassroots level.

“Over 2500 women are in volunteer administration positions. However, only 5% of our club and district presidents and chairs are female. We need more women to put their hands up for these roles.

“Quite simply, this game would not be where it is without our female volunteers.

Without their efforts every weekend, we would never see the next Billy Slater or Benji Marshall.”

Those celebrating the role of women at today’s lunch included NRL star Korbin Sims (Knights), Rugby League Ambassadors Alan Tongue, Nathan Hindmarsh, Mario Fenech and Hazem El Masri, and a host of high-profile ‘fans’ including Leila McKinnon, Layne Beachley, Kirk Pengilly and Charlotte Dawson.

Ruan Sims, sister of Ashton, Tariq (Cowboys) and Korbin (Knights), joined her mother Jacky and Korbin on a panel to discuss her Jillaroos selection, alongside fellow panellists ‘Eagles Angel’ Beachley and husband Pengilly.

The Sydney event was the final of four official Harvey Norman Women in League events, with dinners previously held in Darwin (2 May), Canberra (7 May) and Byron Bay (9 May).

NRL clubs and grassroots clubs are supporting the initiative through various activities, including special edition pink jerseys, pink socks, pink Asics boots and fundraising events for the official charity partner to the Round, McGrath Foundation, and other charities.

A total of $1.1 million has been raised so far for a variety of charities, including over $400,000 for McGrath Foundation as a result of Women in League activities.

For more information on the Harvey Norman Women in League Round please visit www.nrl.com/womeninleague

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