Long-time rugby league volunteer Lyn Smith.

Women in League: Lyn Smith

Lyn Smith isn't one for the limelight.

A rugby league volunteer in the Cronulla-Sutherland region for over 40 years, her involvement stretches back beyond any of the members of the Sharks' current first-grade squad, and despite the countless hours she's put in to support the game she still felt overwhelmed when contacted by NRL.com as we celebrate Women in League Round.

After she lost her husband while her children were still young and with few other men in her family, Smith turned to rugby league to provide her sons with a sense of male leadership and companionship. Her eldest son began playing with the Loftus Pirates in the early 1970s and Smith hasn't looked back since.

In her time in the game, Smith held a number of positions at the Pirates before and after their merger with Sutherland, as well as at the district level. From treasurer and vice president to canteen supervisor, junior league delegate and secretary (a position she held up until last year), she's served the local rugby league community with little fuss and a level of commitment that is to be admired.

"I feel very privileged, I've never been one to do anything for the publicity or anything like that," Smith told NRL.com. 

"I get a lot out of it also, I get a thrill still when a young kid comes up and tells me how well they played, especially the little ones. I never expected any of this to happen, I'm one to be in the background. It's quite different."

Earlier in 2016 the Cronulla-South Sydney women's A grade game was played in honour of Smith, with the Lyn Smith Trophy being presented to the victorious side. She was on hand at Southern Cross Group Stadium to witness the clash, and met a number of Jillaroos players who she says are excellent role models for the next wave of young girls looking to try their hand at rugby league.

"I was honoured to have the cup named after me… What a hard, tough game of football! Quite a lot of people said it was a better game than the men's. It was lovely to meet some of the girls, the Jillaroos, they're lovely girls," she said.

"I do know some young girls through the years that have wanted to play rugby league, it's a great lead-in now for these girls to come forward instead of just playing touch or going to soccer."

A life member of the Cronulla-Sutherland Junior League and currently the Assistant Secretary at Sutherland Loftus, Smith said female representation in management positions had grown significantly in recent years.

When asked about Women in League Round, Smith said she was a fan of the concept but also suggested it might not be needed in the coming years as women in prominent positions in the game becomes commonplace.

"To a degree I think it highlights that women can be involved in rugby league and maybe try and get across to women that it's not as rough and tough as it looks on TV, women can take part," she said.

"It can be a very family-orientated sport.

"I hope it makes other women realise that you can get a lot of pleasure out of it, and you can do – I hope – a lot of good, that you might help guide some person along the line to be a better person than what they might have been."

It's an incredible time to be a rugby league fan in the Cronulla-Sutherland region, with the Sharks unbeaten in 16 games following their 18-all draw with the Titans in Round 21. Smith said the vibe in the area was "unbelievable" as the first-grade side look to claim their maiden premiership.

"You've only got to have a look at the number of people who are now wearing Sharks gear, I've never seen so many people... It's great for the Shire, it's great for the Sharks too that at long last they can maybe get there after all these years instead of people making fun of them."

It's not often we hear of the tales of the many volunteers that look after rugby league's junior systems. Put simply, if it wasn't for Smith and others like her, junior rugby league couldn't function. After everything she's done for the game, that elusive Sharks premiership win would be just rewards for one the unsung heroes of rugby league in the Shire.