Teenage female ref wins One Community award

Capping off a month of Harvey Norman Women in League celebrations, Rugby League’s One Community has broken with tradition and today named a ‘Good Girl of the Month’ for June, with the award going to inspirational Western Sydney teenager Gemma Antonelli.

A talented Rugby League player who also coaches a Glenmore Park Brumbies Under 6’s team, 16-year-old Gemma has spent most of her young life involved in the club and until the age of 12 played in the club’s boys teams, where she was coached by local Penrith hero Barry Walker.

After losing their Grand Final in 2006, Gemma made an emotional speech thanking everyone for making her feel part of the team, which left everyone in the room in tears including Walker.

Determined to continue her involvement in Rugby League, Gemma was given special permission by the Penrith JRL to referee Under 6 matches at the age of 13, a year earlier than the traditional minimum age.

“Rugby League has always been a huge part of my life,” Gemma said.

“My dad Steve is an assistant coach for the Mounties club and my brother Jason plays in the Roosters Toyota Cup squad, so it was only natural that I play too.

“My goal is to push for a girls’ competition so we have a way to support the girls that love Rugby League and want to play beyond the age of 12.”

Gemma has now turned her sights to coaching and creating more opportunities for girls playing Rugby League, which she discussed with 2011 Harvey Norman Women in League Favourite Son, Petero Civoniceva, when the pair met last week.

“Meeting Petero was pretty amazing,” Gemma said.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of his and the Penrith Panthers and to hear he won the Favourite Son award just tops it off for me.”

The giant Panthers forward and captain was equally inspired by Gemma’s passion for the game, saying: “Gemma’s a great example of the women and girls who are the heart of Rugby League - I was blown away by her drive and enthusiasm.

“We spoke about the need to develop teams for girls after the age of 12 and if anyone can make that happen, it’s Gemma.

“Being named this year’s Harvey Norman Women in League Favourite Son really gave me a chance to reflect on all the women in my life – especially my mum Tima and my wife Bonnie – and pay tribute to remarkable young women like Gemma who are changing the rules for Rugby League.”

Rugby League’s One Community Good Girl of the Month award, traditionally the Good Guy of the Month award, acknowledges and recognises the inspiring and widespread commitment of women to Rugby League during the Harvey Norman Women in League Round.

As the Good Girl of the Month, Gemma will receive one night’s accommodation, including breakfast for two, courtesy of NRL sponsor Holiday Inn.