With the launch of the inaugural Tarsha Gale Cup now imminent, countless rugby league administrators, officials, players and spectators are proud of the history that is about to be made for women's rugby league. Few could be prouder, however, than the competition's namesake.
Tarsha Gale reached the pinnacle of rugby league in her career, captaining both Australia and NSW throughout the 1990s. She has since advocated for greater participation, funding and promotion of the women's game – an aim which she is now seeing come to fruition.
"I was very, very flattered and honoured to have a competition named after me," Gale tells NSWRL.com.au. "The professionalism and the backing, especially from the NSWRL and all the individual clubs that have now signed up to be part of it, is really reassuring.
"They'll have such a strong support network now; we can get the most talented girls up and playing the game that they really want to play."
Throughout her playing career Gale was multi-talented, branching into Australian rules football in 2000 as she neared retirement. Now a school teacher, Gale has witnessed Australian sport in general take significant steps towards an equal playing field.
"This is tremendous for women's sport," Gale adds. "I see that not only the girls want to participate in these sports, but also the spectators. Plus with the backing from the bigger associations that used to only back the men, it's going to have amazing progress."
The ground-breaking competition kicks off on Saturday, when NSWRL.com.au will stream the first-ever Tarsha Gale Cup match from Belmore Sports Ground. Tipping significant interest from rugby league fans in general, Gale knows that viewers will be treated to a high-quality game of junior representative football.
"I was fortunate enough to be invited by the NSWRL to go to the Sydney Metropolitan Women's Grand Final last year," Gale explains. "Their passes were fantastic, their speed off the mark was tremendous, so I'm expecting great things.
"The skill level is fantastic right now and I'm really looking forward to seeing what they produce."
The formation of the Tarsha Gale Cup represents rugby league's significant commitment to female participation and, fittingly, it will be named after someone who fully embodies that commitment. Asked what that means to her, Gale's response was simple.
"It brings a huge smile to my face that what I've always considered to be the greatest game of all now is and can be played by all."