Penrith Panthers skipper Petero Civoniceva has been named the 2011 Harvey Norman Women in League Favourite Son, accepting the award in front of 200 women at Sydney’s annual Harvey Norman Women in League lunch.

Five thousand women from across the game voted for the award, which is presented to a player who acts as a role model to younger players and whose off-field characteristics embody the true values of the Rugby League community.

The smiling giant, who is the most capped Test forward in Australian Rugby League history, emerged the clear winner from a stellar list of nominees including Darren Lockyer (Brisbane Broncos), Alan Tongue (Canberra Raiders), Andrew Ryan (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Cameron Smith (Melbourne Storm), Kurt Gidley (Newcastle Knights), Nathan Merritt (South Sydney Rabbitohs) and Preston Campbell (Gold Coast Titans).

“It’s really humbling to receive this award on a day that is about acknowledging the women of Rugby League,” Civoniceva said.

“The great thing about these events and the Women in League Round is that we’re giving all the women across the game the recognition they deserve and that’s something that makes this award even more special.

“I’m really pleased my wife Bonnie could also be here today as this award also recognises the tremendous support she has given me on and off the field.”

Tuesday’s lunch, at the Deckhouse restaurant at Woolwich Dock, was one of a number of events this week that will pay tribute to the 50,000 women who give their time each week as Rugby League volunteers, officials, referees, administrators and players at the grass-roots to the NRL level of the game.

Guests included NRL Chief Executive, David Gallop, NRL Director of Community, Culture and Diversity, Trish Crews, female NRL Club Board members, staff and Women in League ambassadors, players from across the code, the McGrath Foundation’s Tracy Bevan, Rugby League legend Laurie Daley and Channel Nine presenter and Roosters Women in League Ambassador, Leila McKinnon, who shared the MC role.

Also present were Rugby League’s One Community ambassadors Mario Fenech, David Peachey and Trent Barrett and the game’s 2009 Favourite Son, Hazem El Masri, who joined his wife Arwa and newly crowned Favourite Son Petero Civoniceva and his wife Bonnie for a special guest panel.

“The Harvey Norman Women in League Round caps off one of the most inspiring weeks in Rugby League,” NRL Chief Executive, Mr David Gallop, said today.

“This week is about recognising and thanking all the women involved in our game, from the thousands who each week give their time to grass-roots clubs and fields across Australia, to those who today named their Favourite Son.

“In the last two years the number of women involved across Rugby League has grown by 10,000 to 50,000, which is an achievement we are very proud of.

“It not only demonstrates the importance of the Harvey Norman Women in League Round but also the sense of belonging and community people get from being involved in Rugby League.

“Thank you to Harvey Norman, in particular Katie Page, for their ongoing support of this program and congratulations to Petero for being chosen by the women of the game as their Favourite Son.”

Among the 200 women in the room on Tuesday was Parramatta Eels Women in League Ambassador Millie Horo, who as well as raising three Rugby League players of her own, has been a house mum for players for the past eight years including Jarryd Hayne, Ben Smith, Daniel Mortimer and current Eels Toyota Cup prop Peni Terepo.

Sydney was the third Harvey Norman Women in League event this month, with Noosa and Bowral already hosting events and Perth set to host its first Women in League event this Thursday night when 200 women from Western Australia’s Rugby League community attend a dinner at Mosman Park.  

Activities and events this week and during the Harvey Norman Women in League Round (June 24-27) include:

- Wests Tigers, Penrith Panthers, Canberra Raiders, Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra Dragons will wear specially designed pink playing kits for their Round 16 games. The Parramatta Eels, will wear their pink jersey in Round 17 while the Sea Eagles wore their pink strip in yesterday’s Round 15 game.

- The Eels, Sea Eagles, Sharks, Storm and Titans have produced a special Harvey Norman Women in League range of women’s jerseys, for sale through Club merchandise stores.

- Harvey Norman will search for the pinkest fan at Round 16 games, with Harvey Norman prizes on offer.

- More than 25 players will wear special pink Blades football boots which will then be auctioned to raise funds for NRL and Club charities.

- Games in the Round will be played with pink match balls which will also be auctioned, to raise money for the McGrath Foundation.

- Women in League tattoos will be handed out at matches and pink clappers will be available for purchase at the grounds.

- McGrath Foundation pink scarves will be on sale at selected Round 16 games.

- Personalised Harvey Norman Women in League mugs are available for sale through www.myownmug.com.au/wil with $2 from each item donated to the McGrath Foundation.

- Harvey Norman 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:

- The Melbourne Storm will host a Women in League breakfast on Wednesday (June 22) at Crown, hosted by Storm Ambassador and Ovarian Cancer Australia Patron, Nicole Livingstone.

- The North Queensland Cowboys will host a Women in League celebration on Thursday (June 23) at Dairy Farmers Stadium to fundraise for the McGrath Foundation.

- Wests Tigers will hold a ‘Ladies Night at the Footy’ before their clash with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs this Friday (June 24).

- A girl’s only Rugby League game will feature at half-time of the Titans home game against the Sharks this Saturday (June 25).

- The Canberra Raiders will host a Women in League dinner this Saturday (June 25) ahead of their game against the Parramatta Eels.

- The Newcastle Knights will hold their inaugural Domayne Women in League Ladies Luncheon this Sunday (June 26) with guests including newsreader Natasha Beyersdorf and the club’s Women in League ambassador, country music star Catherine Britt.

- The St George Illawarra Dragons will hold a special ‘Ladies Day at the Footy’ pre-game function on Sunday week (July 3) with mini massages, hair styling and make up touch ups.

- The Penrith Panthers and the Brisbane Broncos both kicked off their week yesterday with a Women in League Round Garden Party and a Women in League luncheon respectively for female guests from across the two clubs.

More than 25 NRL players including Blues skipper Paul Gallen will wear special pink Blades football boots this weekend in support of the Harvey Norman Women in League Round, with a number of the boots including Gallen’s to be auctioned after the Round through www.nrlauctions.com in support of the McGrath Foundation and club charities.

Players wearing the special pink boots include:

Panthers: Kevin Kingston, Nathan Smith; Dragons: Jamie Soward, Trent Merrin, Adam Cuthbertson; Roosters: Jake Friend; Sea Eagles: Kieran Foran; Rabbitohs: Nathan Merritt, John Sutton, Eddy Pettybourne; Dave Taylor; Storm: Anthony Quinn, Beau Champion, Kevin Proctor; Wests Tigers: Robbie Farah, Mitch Brown, Bryce Gibbs, Lote Tuqiri; Knights: Akuila Uate, Neville Costigan, James McManus, Joel Edwards; Sharks: Luke Douglas, Paul Gallen, Kade Snowden; Cowboys: Matt Scott, Tariq Sims, James Tamou.