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Rugby League has today launched the 2012 Harvey Norman Women in League celebrations at a time when women represent the fastest growing area of involvement in the sport.

Figures unveiled at the launch at Sydney’s Rugby League Central show:

- A 70% increase in the number of women in Board or executive management positions

- A 10% increase in the number of women in other management positions

- A 20% rise in female participation from 5,490 in 2011 to 6,559 in 2012

- Female club membership increasing by 20,000 in 2011 to 82,250 to account for 41% of all members.

- The number of female volunteers across the country now reaches 52,000

- ARL Development staff now delivering skills and curriculum-based lessons to almost 750,000 female students across Australia and New Zealand.

ARL Commissioner, Mrs Catherine Harris AO PSM, and ARL Commission General Manager of Community, Culture and Diversity, Ms Trish Crews, were joined by Harvey Norman Favourite Son finalists Kurt Gidley and Luke Burt to launch a calendar of events in the lead-up to the 2012 Harvey Norman Women in League Round played from June 22-25 (Round 16).

They joined a team of women representing the many important roles women play in Rugby League, including: the first woman to control a Toyota Cup match Kasey Badger; academic advisor on the NRL’s Welfare and Education Committee Professor Catharine Lumby; the game’s first full-time development officer devoted solely to female participation, Sam Scott; and Jillaroo Jess Palmer, a member of the NSW women’s team to play Queensland in the Interstate Challenge at Penrith during the Harvey Norman Women in League Round.

In launching the sixth annual Harvey Norman Women in League Round, Mrs Harris said it was vital that the game continued to recognise and reach out to women.

“There are four key areas we need to look at: the role of women playing Rugby League; the role of women who support the sport as volunteers, partners, referees and coaches; the women who work in the game; and the mothers who make the decisions to allow their sons and daughters to play or to go to matches,” she said.

“Women make up half the population and they are mothers to the other half! Sport is an area that has traditionally not been good at recognising women and that is why the Harvey Norman Women in League round is important.

“Rugby League is a fabulous sport with great ball skills, incredible athletes and teamwork and it is as entertaining to women as it is to men.”

Ms Crews today encouraged all fans to get behind the many events that will lead up to the Harvey Norman Women in League round.

“There will be plenty of opportunities to get involved and show your support for the women in our game as well as the chance to raise money for the Harvey Norman Women in League charity partner, the McGrath Foundation,” she said.

“One sign of the game-wide support for this round is that already 8,000 pairs of pink socks have been sold which will raise money for the McGrath Foundation.

“Women are represented across every level of the game from board rooms to football departments, executive administrations, the grass roots and in the grandstands - that is why the Harvey Norman Women in League Round is embraced by so many fans.”

Over the next few weeks more than 1,000 women will attend dinners and lunches hosted by the ARL Commission in Sydney NSW (June 19), Ipswich QLD (June 21), Bathurst NSW (June 26) and Bundaberg QLD (June 28). Prior to the regional events, workshops will be held in each area to encourage more women to assume leadership roles in the game.

Thousands more women are also expected to attend club functions and activities including the Panthers’ Women in League Lunch (June 18), the Knights’ “Ladies Knight at the Movies” (June 21) and the Cowboys’ Women in League Cocktail Function at Dairy Farmers Stadium (June 19).

The Sydney Harvey Norman Women in League lunch on June 19 will reveal the Harvey Norman Favourite Son Award winner, chosen on-line by women in the game, with nominees including Braith Anasta (Roosters), Luke Burt (Eels), Kurt Gidley (Knights), Luke Lewis (Panthers), Terry Campese (Raiders), Ben Creagh (Dragons), Matt Bowen (Cowboys), Joe Galuvao (Sea Eagles), Manu Vatuvei (Warriors) and Luke Bailey (Titans).

On-line voting for the Favourite Son Award, presented to a player who acts as a role model to younger players and whose off-field characteristics embody the values of the Rugby League community, closes tomorrow by clicking here.

For the third year, Harvey Norman Women in League’s charity partner is the McGrath Foundation, with WIL Round activities such as the sale of pink socks, mugs and other merchandise, and the auction of pink Blades boots and signed footballs, all helping to raise funds to provide breast care nurses. Other charities will also benefit from club activities.

Remember you can access all the team lists, live scores and stats from the Women in League Round on your mobile. Visit on your mobile device, or download the free updated 2012 Official NRL iPhone App (where there’s live streaming radio available too).

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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