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The women of Rugby League today named Parramatta’s Nathan Hindmarsh as their ‘Favourite Son’ at Sydney’s annual Harvey Norman Women in League Lunch at Curzon Hall, the venue earlier in the day hosting a women’s leadership workshop for some of Rugby League’s volunteers.

The Harvey Norman Women in League Lunch brought more than 200 women from the game’s grass-roots together with players, employees, officials and administrators to pay tribute to the invaluable contribution of the 40,000 women involved in the game.

One of the highlights of the lunch was the presentation of the Harvey Norman Women in League Favourite Son Award, which was inaugurated in 2009 to recognise a player who acts as a true role model to younger players, and whose off-field characteristics embody the true values of the Rugby League community.

Bulldogs legend and One Community ambassador, Hazem El Masri, the game’s inaugural ‘Favourite Son’, joined Harvey Norman Managing Director and NRL Board Member, Katie Page, in presenting Nathan Hindmarsh with the award, while fellow nominees Andrew Ryan (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Alan Tongue (Canberra Raiders) and Braith Anasta (Sydney Roosters) watched on.

Other nominees for the award, which drew more than 3,200 votes from women across the game, were Darren Lockyer (Brisbane Broncos), Trent Barrett (Cronulla Sharks), Preston Campbell (Gold Coast Titans) and Petero Civoniceva (Penrith Panthers).

Today’s Harvey Norman Women in League Lunch is one of the key events ahead of this weekend’s Harvey Norman Women in League Round (June 25-28), which will see NRL and grass-roots clubs transform themselves in pink in recognition of the tens of thousands of women at the heart of the game.

Also present today was NRL Chief Executive, David Gallop, NRL Director of Community Relations, Trish Crews, female Club Board members, Club Women in League Ambassadors, players from across the code and Managing Director of Women in League charity partner, the McGrath Foundation, Tracy Bevan.

“Women are an integral part of Rugby League at all levels and today’s lunch is one way that we can recognise the important contribution they make,” NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said today.

“Across the game there are 40,000 women involved as volunteers, employees and officials, and tens of thousands more who each week attend NRL and grass-roots matches.

“As clubs across the Telstra Premiership and the game’s grass-roots celebrate this weekend, it’s a real chance for people to show their appreciation to these women by taking their partner, mother, sister or daughter to a game during this special round, wearing pink or attending one of the many club Women in League events.

“The Harvey Norman Women in League Round is also a chance to support One Community’s Women in League charity partner, the McGrath Foundation, and their important work helping women diagnosed with breast cancer and raising breast awareness.

“We also continue to encourage everyone in Rugby League to not only recognise and celebrate the invaluable work that women do for the game, but to also actively promote women into leadership, senior management and board level positions.

“At the beginning of 2009 there were two women on NRL Club boards – today there are eight, which is a trend we are working hard to continue.”

Today’s female leadership workshop is an example of one such initiative to promote women into leadership and management roles across the game.

Held prior to the Harvey Norman Women in League Lunch, the workshop, for 20 female volunteers from across Sydney, was facilitated by gender diversity experts Emberin and covered a broad range of topics including influencing and negotiating, women as leaders and balancing work, life and family.

Participants then joined the more than 200 women at today’s lunch, where guests heard from Manly Sea Eagles Board Member Melinda Gainsford-Taylor, Jillaroo player Jess Palmer and her father, legendary NRL Club trainer, Ron Palmer, in a panel discussion about balancing work, life and sport, and the role of women in senior positions in the Rugby League community.

Harvey Norman Managing Director and NRL Board Member, Katie Page, also addressed the lunch, encouraging all women involved in Rugby League to celebrate their roles in the game and also the role the game plays in their daily lives.

“The Women in League Round is about formally recognising your efforts to the game of Rugby League,” Katie Page said today.

“This is our fourth Women in League Round, which has enabled the game to celebrate you - whatever your roles, whether paid or unpaid, you have ensured the continued success of Rugby League for decades.”

Harvey Norman Women in League is in its fourth year, with the Sydney event the third to take place this month. Today’s lunch follows similar events in Rockhampton and Dubbo, with the final Women in League event to take place in Auckland next week (June 30).

Activities will continue across this weekend’s Harvey Norman Women in League Round (June 25-28) including:

- The Panthers once again transforming themselves into the Pink Panthers with a full pink kit; the Dragons’ traditional Red V being morphed pink; and Manly, Parramatta and the Sydney Roosters all wearing pink jerseys. Fans will be able to purchase these modified jerseys through Rebel and NRL Club stores.

- The Eels staff, mascots, ball boys, and volunteers also wearing a touch of pink; and the Canberra Raiders wearing pink socks.

- Players at several clubs pulling on pink boots this weekend, which will then be auctioned off through NRL and Club websites to raise funds for One Community and Club charity partners.

- Games in the Round will be played with pink match balls (except the Panthers v Sea Eagles match) which will be auctioned off after Round 16 to raise money for the McGrath Foundation.

- Women in League tattoos will be handed out at matches.

- McGrath Foundation pink scarves will be sold through both the Foundation website prior to the Round but also by volunteers at some grounds.

- Women in League video presented on the big screen at each game.

NRL Clubs are also rallying behind the celebrations this week with initiatives including:

- A special $40 Family Ticket offer for seven of the eight Harvey Norman Women in League Round matches (excludes Rabbitohs v Storm in Perth).

- The Panthers, Roosters, Dragons, Sharks and Titans websites turning pink.

- Female junior Rugby League players/volunteers joining match day celebrations at the Raiders, Sharks, Eels, and Dragons.

- Various fundraising initiatives in support of Women in League charity partner, the McGrath Foundation, and NRL Club charity partners – including the Eels and Dragons auctioning off their pink playing jerseys, and two of the Panthers’ sponsors donating funds for tries and points scored by the team this weekend to the club’s Women in League charity partners.

- The Pink Panthers Shield to be awarded to the winner of the Women in League Round game between the Panthers and the Sea Eagles.

- The Eels ‘wear pink’ promotion and ‘Eels in Heels’ event, the Dragons Harvey Norman Pinkest Fan Awards and the Titans ‘best dressed pink’ fan competition

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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