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More than 130 women this month will take part in the NRL’s inaugural leadership workshop series, announced today at the launch of the 2014 Harvey Norman Women in League Round at Sydney Olympic Park.

NRL Chief Operating Officer Mr Jim Doyle made the announcement ahead of today’s inaugural Wellbeing and Balance Workshop, which marks the start of an ongoing program by the NRL to invest in the fastest growing area of influence in the game.

NRL General Manager of People and Culture, Ms Vanessa Porter, will run the workshops in conjunction with other expert human resources presenters. Ms Porter has held senior executive roles with major international companies including Staging Connections, McDonald's, Vero Insurance, Disney Stores (UK) and the Australian Retailers Association.

The workshops – to be held in Western Sydney (today), Wollongong NSW (May 7), Hunter Valley NSW (May 9) and Sunshine Coast QLD (May 20) – mark a change of direction for the eighth annual Harvey Norman Women in League Round being celebrated officially in Round 10 next week (May 16-19).

“We know what a significant influence women are having on our game so we have deliberately shifted our focus with the Women in League initiative to leadership workshops,” said Mr Doyle.

“This is just the beginning of a program that will be rolled out across the country so that we can provide women and girls from grassroots up with the skills and confidence to take on leadership roles in their local areas or clubs.

“It is important for women and girls to be able to get involved in the game and make them feel proud of their role and their contribution to Rugby League.”

The influence of women in Rugby League is greater than ever. Player registrations increased 66 per cent in the past 12 months (from 4741 in 2013 to 7216 in 2014).

And women’s involvement at all levels continues to grow from grassroots, where 40 per cent of club positions are held by women, to the NRL.

At the same time, the profile of women in Rugby League has also continued to rise, with significant milestones in the past 12 months including: appointments such as Raelene Castle as Bulldogs CEO, Corene Strauss as Men of League CEO, Rebecca Frizelle as Titans Board Chair and Linda Burney as ARL Indigenous Council Chair; the Jillaroos winning the Women’s Rugby League World Cup for the first time, and the women’s match played as a curtain-raiser to the Test on Friday; and Kasey Badger and Belinda Sleeman becoming the first female referees to be included in the full-time elite match officials squad.

Ms Castle, Ms Strauss, Ms Badger and Ms Sleeman all joined forces today at the launch alongside NRL sibling stars Brett (Dragons) and Josh Morris (Bulldogs), who paid tribute to their mother Karen Chatfield for her unwavering support of them throughout their careers.

Mrs Chatfield, who proudly watched her sons play for the Holden Kangaroos in the Test against the Kiwis on Friday night, will find her loyalties divided this weekend when they play each other in the blockbuster on Mother’s Day at ANZ Stadium (Sunday). The Dragons v Bulldogs clash is a feature game in this weekend’s Telstra Premiership round celebrating and thanking mums and female fans.

And while Brett has received a nomination for the annual Harvey Norman Favourite Son Award, to be announced at the official NRL Women In League lunch next week (May 14), there is no playing “favourites” for their mum.

“I am just so proud of them both,” she said.

“Of course I never play favourites … I always hope they have a draw when they play one another, so it was great to be able to cheer for them as teammates in the Test.

“The main thing is that they enjoy what they do and they give it their best every time … that’s the best thanks they can give me.”

Following the launch, 40 women from NRL Clubs, Junior Rugby League Clubs and NSW Rugby League, and representatives from sponsors Harvey Norman and Accor, attended the inaugural Wellbeing and Balance Workshop at the Pullman Hotel. Attendees included the NRL’s 2011 National Volunteer of the Year, Penny Morgan, who is also a member of the Junior Rugby League Advisory Council; along with women working in a variety of roles within the NRL Clubs such as Development Officer, Club Career Coach, Membership and Fan Engagement Executive, Community Relations Managers and Program Managers.

“Pop on Purple” Socks for Charity

Rugby League Clubs across the country and in New Zealand have the opportunity to raise money for their club or a chosen charity through the sale of purple Women in League socks this month.

Already 1100 pairs of socks have been sold in less than a week as part of the “Pop on Purple” campaign which will see players wearing purple socks during the Harvey Norman Women in League Round next week.

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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