Australian Jillaroo Jenni Sue Hoepper visited Papua New Guinea last month to promote education, respect and female participation in rugby league.
Jenni-Sue, whose parentage is Marshall Lagoon and Kairuku in the Central Province of Papua New Guinea, delivered a speech and answered questions from 200 female students about her success in obtaining her goal of becoming an Australian Jillaroo.
Jenni shared her stories about her decisions, sacrifices and struggles she faced in obtaining her ultimate goal of wearing the Green and Gold jersey.
Questions ranged from what it took to achieve her goal to who her greatest inspiration is, and the greatest challenges she faces.
Two key elements of success that Jenni Sue shared with the students were to always believe in yourself and to never give up on striving for your goals, no matter what circumstances or challenges you face.
Students all received Women in League rugby league balls as part of the event and POMIS has asked that the NRL PNG team now hold regular Girls Rugby League Fun Days as part of the school term calendar, an excellent outcome from the event.
Jenni Sue also gave a briefing to PNGRFL Women's Rugby League coaches and captains on the set up of women’s rugby league in Australia, and in particular in Queensland.
Present to hear the valuable account were, PNGRFL Southern Region Director – Mr Gwaibo Mairi, Interim CEO PNGRFL – Mr Shane Morris, PNGRFL Women’s Director – Ms Wendy Kohun and President for Port Moresby Women’s Rugby League – Ms Elis Siki.
Jenni Sue gave a summary on:
• How women’s rugby league clubs are set up in Australia.
• Pathways for representation at the international level as a Jillaroo.
• Female coaching, referees and trainers pathways and structures in Australia.
• Schools rugby league structures for girls in Australia
• Challenges for women's rugby league clubs, such as;
o Raising money to fund clubs.
o Players having to fund their own trips on tours.
o Recognition from the community and the governing bodies.
• Support from male rugby league stars.
The female PNG players and coaches shared their struggles and passion for the game.
Highlights from the discussion were:
• PNG women's rugby league did not realize the struggle that their Australian counterparts had to go through to achieve success as a sport.
• PNG have 7 provinces and 76 registered female rugby league clubs nationwide.
• Male coaches of women’s teams highlighted the stigma and negative perception by fellow males in the sport.
• Call for an Annual Women in Rugby League Forum to discuss how to improve women’s rugby league in PNG.
• Call for two dedicated dates in a year, aimed at coaching and trainers accreditation specifically for women's rugby league.
Overall it was an extremely successful visit by Jenni Sue who is an excellent role model for Papua New Guinean Women and ambassador for the NRL.