Indigenous women's camp a winner: O'Mealey
Sydney Roosters five-eighth Lavina O'Mealey said the Indigenous Women's Players Camp on Friday created a safe space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to feel empowered by having a voice.
The NRL's Indigenous Strategy Team, in conjunction with the Wellbeing and Education Team, have worked hard to develop a platform for Indigenous women in rugby league to establish a strong network while developing leadership skills among the group.
Rugby League Central invited Indigenous players from New South Wales and Queensland to take part in what will become an annual camp.
O'Mealey told NRL.com that it was vital for the camp to be introduced this year considering the number of Indigenous players and the many more that are coming through the pathways.
"With the direction that the women's game is heading and the number of Indigenous women and young girls that do play, we couldn't not have this camp," O'Mealey said.
"We're looking forward to see this camp grow further so we can continue to empower each other as Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander women and create this pathway in particular for our young Indigenous girls.
"The sisterhood is growing stronger, everyone is on the same page now and everyone feels comfortable to speak their mind and share their opinions. That's important for us as Indigenous women.
"Representation is very important to all of us as well. We want to be the ones who set the standard and take on the ownership of where we want to see the women's game grow from an Indigenous perspective."
The day was facilitated by former Australian rugby league, rugby sevens and touch footballer Bo De La Cruz.
Also on hand were Politician Linda Burney, former Kiwi International and NRL Wellbeing and Education Programs Ambassador Dene Halatau, ARL Commissioner Professor Megan Davis, model Samantha Harris and sports presenters Yvonne Sampson and Hannah Hollis.
NRL Senior Manager of Indigenous Strategy, Mark Deweerd said Indigenous women deserve the some opportunities the NRL provides to men.
"For us having a women's camp is just as important as the men's because it has the same reason for being in existence – to support our Indigenous players, share their aspirations, while allowing them to discuss any issues or concerns that may arise and how to deal with them," Deweerd said.
"We know from the men's camp how much value these gatherings do provide so we are already planning on growing over the coming years to see it be parallel to the men's camp.
"We also saw the need to spend some time with the Indigenous women that have been selected in the new NRL competition, to make sure that they're well prepared and have the support that they need for things that happen off the field."
South Sydney Rabbitohs lock Jasmine Allende, who has been ruled of the women's competition due to an ACL injury she suffered in April, said the camp allowed the girls to feel comfortable to express their views on rugby league and what they want their purpose to be in the game.
"Having an Indigenous women's camp was definitely important to introduce this year and knowing that what we're doing now in these camps is going to make a difference, for say my younger sister who's going to play and all the other young girls in my community that are coming through," Allende said.
"The big thing about this camp is having that connection culture and feeling like we're not alone on our rugby league journey - we all feel very supported.
"Mark and George created a safe space for us to talk about the legacy that we want to leave and how we're going to do it. That's been a big driving force for all us girls is to create a solid platform and pathway for the young girls and women in our game."