Melbourne Storm chief operating officer Danielle Smith.

Women in League: Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith only attended her first rugby league match just five years ago, but the Melbourne Storm chief operating officer instantly fell in love with the game she's now deeply involved with.

Smith joined the Storm as the chief financial officer and company secretary in 2011, and was added to the board of directions in 2014, a position she still holds.

"I felt very honoured and humbled to join the board of Melbourne Storm as it is such a great club. It is fantastic to have the opportunity to work alongside the other board members who are all successful business people, and it also enables me to have a greater influence on the operations of the club," Smith told NRL.com.

As well as being the only female on the board, Smith's role has since expanded to chief operating officer, a role she thoroughly enjoys and that is integral in the day-to-day running of the Melbourne club.

"I have overall responsibility for managing the finance, people and culture, legal, salary cap administration and IT operations of the club, together with non-football investments and operations. This also includes overseeing the establishment of the club's professional netball team which will form part of the new national netball league in 2017," Smith said.

The Storm were announced as a preferred bidder back in May for one of the three new licences under the current expansion plan by Netball Australia.

Smith had a huge part to play in her club gaining the licence, and is excited to not only build a netball team but also to strengthen ties between the club and Queensland. 

"Along with our joint venture partner, the University of the Sunshine Coast, we are very excited to be part of the continued growth of netball and elite female sport in Australia and internationally," Smith said.

"We also have a keen interest to further develop pathways for players, and support the Sunshine Coast region with its first national elite-level sporting team. 

"The new team will also help continue to strengthen our links with Queensland and grow our brand and fan base further, with Melbourne of course always being our home."

As we celebrate the 10th year of the Harvey Norman Women in League Round, Smith knows how important this round is to women involved in all levels of rugby league across Australia, and one day hopes that women's influence on rugby league is so grand, it doesn't need to be singled out. 

"It is great for women involved in all facets of the game to be recognised and appreciated, and hopefully enable other women to see what they can achieve in a career in sport," Smith said.

"I also look forward to a time when gender and women in sport is no longer seen as an issue that needs to be highlighted independently and we can celebrate and acknowledge everyone's contribution to the game."

Smith's story is one to celebrate, and it's one she believes young women across Australia can make for themselves by following their sporting dreams.

"My key piece of advice is that you don't need to be a gifted athlete to be involved in elite sport," Smith said.

"There are so many ways to be involved including sport business, exercise science, coaching and player pathways.

"You should focus on being very good at your particular area of expertise, through education and gaining experience, particularly through volunteer and intern roles early in your career.  

"As well as being able to be part of the celebrations that come with on-field success, I love being involved in sport to see the positive impact it has on the fans and society generally.  

"Sport is such a great vehicle to bring communities together and raise awareness of important social issues."