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Women took centre stage last night, rubbing shoulders with the NRL All Stars in the lead-up to the Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars match, where 200 volunteers and officials were rewarded at the Harvey Norman Women in League All Stars Dinner, at SkyPoint Deck on Level 77 of the Gold Coast’s Q1 building.

Leah Purcell lead the formal proceedings as MC of the event which hosted a full room of volunteer women from Rugby League’s grassroots in South East Queensland, as well as the Women’s Indigenous All Stars and the opposing Women’s All Stars who are preparing for their curtain raiser match on Saturday (kick off 3:40pm AEST).

Last night’s Harvey Norman Women in League All Stars Dinner saw NRL All Star Cameron Smith join Women’s All Star Tahnee Norris on the panel to discuss the contribution that women make to Rugby League.

“Women play a huge role in this game and tonight’s a great initiative that recognises some of the women up here on the Gold Coast and simply says thanks,” Smith said.

“While the All Stars game is important, all the players involved want to do as much as they can to help their communities, like all the women here tonight, and that’s the most important part of this week.”

Also on the panel was a former Australian Jillaroo who upstaged her cousin, Laurie Daley. Katrina Fanning has 24 Tests to her credit and holds the family record having played three more than the Indigenous All Stars coach.

Katrina revealed she would have loved to play for the women’s Indigenous side and believes that the match will be very competitive – in fact a better contest than State of Origin.

“Growing up in Junee with a large Indigenous family, I remember playing many a game of Rugby League with my family and Laurie,” she said.

“Every Grand Final day our family would get together and us kids would play our own backyard league match, the winners did a lap of honour around the town, so Rugby League has some very fond memories for me.”

The panel spoke in depth about the women’s match on Saturday as well as the important role which women have played in their Rugby League careers in addition to being a female player in the game.

The night featured the Women’s Indigenous All Stars and Women’s All Stars teams who were presented with their game day jerseys by League legends Mal Meninga and Brad Fittler respectively.

The evening was a heartwarming celebration of the contribution both Indigenous and non-Indigenous women make to Rugby League in and around the Gold Coast, as well as highlighting Indigenous women and elders who are involved in local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community programs.  

NRL Director of Community Relations, Ms Trish Crews said: “Women’s Rugby League is gaining more and more recognition and it is pleasing that when you look at the growing participation numbers in Rugby League they now include girls and boys.

“Last year, more than 11,000 girls participated in girls-only school gala days and, overall, 270,047 girls were involved in ARL Development participation activities, from skills clinics to matches.

“The Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars is a celebration of our game’s diverse culture, as is Women in League.”

The Harvey Norman Women in League events are now in their fifth year and last night’s dinner aimed to recognise some of the women who are part of Rugby League’s proud indigenous history.