Female NRL coach a matter of time, says Roosters mentor Robinson

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson says a female NRL head coach is just a matter of time and the process of making it a reality will accelerate now there are more platforms for more women to play the game.

The inaugural NRL Holden Women's Premiership in September has opened the door.

The Roosters, one of the four clubs in the new competition, have appointed their former under 20s coach Adam Hartigan to oversee their newest team.

Robinson wants to see all the women's NRL teams being coached by women, following the lead of the Warriors, who will be coached by Luisa Avaiki in the inaugural season.

Once that happens, then the natural progression will be for a woman to hold the clipboard for a men's NRL team.

"It is a bridge too far right now – but it won't be long," Robinson told NRL.com.

"I was really keen but we weren't quite ready. We couldn't find one that was dominant or competent enough at the moment. But there should be women's coaches of the women's rugby league teams.

"That's the first step and then we'll start seeing them get into assistant coaching jobs at SG Ball, Jersey Flegg and then we'll see them into NRL teams.

"There has to be pathways for that," said Robinson, who won the Telstra Premiership as a rookie NRL coach in 2013 and is about to take the Roosters to their fifth NRL finals series in six years. 

Kasey Badger refereeing in the Intrust Super Premiership.
Kasey Badger refereeing in the Intrust Super Premiership. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

There might have been plenty of females as directors in club boardrooms 10 years ago, but there were no female chairs or CEOs. Since then Rebecca Frizelle (Titans), Marina Go (Tigers), Lynne Anderson (Bulldogs) and Raelene Castle (Bulldogs) have held the top positions in club administration.

There have been three women as ARL Commissioners since it was formed in 2012.

"Am I saying there will be a female NRL coach in five years? I doubt it but are we saying there won't be in 50 years? I'm definitely not saying that either," Robinson said.

"You've got to create pathways for someone to show they can become a NRL coach. It's not about creating women NRL coaches. It's about creating pathways in coaching regardless of gender.

"I'm not saying you have had to play the game either, but it helps. I can see a couple of women out of our Roosters team the will be coaches in a couple of years.

"We want to continue to improve our coach-education pathways.

"If someone said to me 'Can you go and coach netball?' I don't think I could do it because I haven't 'felt' the sport. When you have to stop [playing] at under 12s and can't play until under 16s again that's been an issue [for women].

Ruan Sims trains with the Roosters.
Ruan Sims trains with the Roosters.

"So we have to create more pathways to play, to create the possibility of more female coaches in our game."

As part of the Harvey Norman Women in League round this weekend, Robinson invited Bondi United under 6s coach Kellie Lane to watch him put his NRL side through their paces on-and-off the field so she understood the preparation involved.

The Roosters have had a female physio for the past eight years at their NRL team. Robinson also has a female sports scientist on his football staff.

A female NRL referee is more likely to happen before a female NRL head coach, simply because candidates are waiting in the wings.

Belinda Sleeman and Kasey Badger officiate as touch judges in the NRL every weekend, have been on the sidelines in Test matches, and referee Intrust Super Premiership and Intrust Super Cup matches.

"I think we'll always notice it's a female but we won't be judging them based on their sex," Robinson said.

"What the women are doing in referee ranks is happening elsewhere in the game… but we haven't got into the coaching ranks yet. We need to."