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The woman behind the scenes carrying the Kiwis

Meet the woman behind the scenes who helped put New Zealand's tour of the UK together.

Nadene Conlon has been in the role as the Kiwis' team manager for five years and became the first ever to be appointed full-time from 2016, overlooking all behind-the-scenes work that goes into the Kiwis, Junior Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns from a logistics perspective.

Conlon is currently the only female staff member in camp with the Kiwis in the United Kingdom after more than 10 months of planning the month-long tour.

The former Kiwi Ferns captain gave an insight to this week into the planning that takes place to organise hotel locations, training facilities and venues, restaurants, community visits and personal requests like players' passports, extra baggage, laundry and everyday living.

"It's great, I don't really notice that I'm the only woman here," Conlon tells

Nadene Conlon sings the New Zealand national anthem with the Kiwis squad.
Nadene Conlon sings the New Zealand national anthem with the Kiwis squad. ©Bernard Platt/NRL Photos

"They're used to me being around so I'm just one of the boys really. I've worked in the game doing different things for over 20 years so I'm used to the environment.

"It changes the environment a little bit but I always want them to be themselves. They do mind what they say sometimes because there is a woman around and it's not all male talk but I am all for them being normal."

Conlon joked she often reminds some players she's not their mother but believes having at least one woman on tour offers a point of difference away from the game.

Rugby league is very accepting of women in commercial or community-type roles. But it is challenging in the football department.

Nadene Conlon

"I do feel like I am forever picking up after them and reminding them of things," Conlon said.

"I think the guys like having a female presence, I probably am guilty of spoiling them a little bit and thinking of things only a woman would.

"But I'd never push a player to have a chat or anything like that if I thought something was wrong. They know I am always around if needed. Some of these players I have known a long time coming through as teenagers. It's important to have a homely feel in camp."

Conlon said working in a male-dominated industry at the international level comes with people often questioning her role with the Kiwis.

She is often assumed to be the physiotherapist or doctor, with people occasionally shocked when she clarifies her role.

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Conlon represented the Kiwi Ferns for more than a decade and captained the side to World Cup triumph in 2000.

"I do find it a little bit challenging," Conlon said of the role.

"I'm still sometimes having to prove myself. No one would question a man in this role. What I've found is in recent times rugby league is very accepting of women in commercial or community-type roles.

"But it is challenging in the football department. Sometimes you have to know twice as much to be recognised. I think that it has shifted a little bit but it's a slow burn. Once people know me and understand my history and see that I'm very capable it's good.

"Rugby league has given me so many memories I'll cherish for a lifetime."

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Conlon travelled to several locations across Northern England earlier in the year as part of her tour planning to ensure that the more than 30 players and support staff with the Kiwis don't encounter any unexpected travel hurdles around their campaign.

"I've found it's imperative really because you just don't know what you're going to face," Conlon said.

"That way the transition is so much easier and everything is organised, you get that flow on.

Nadene Conlon keeps a close eye on the Kiwis on the sideline at Anfield.
Nadene Conlon keeps a close eye on the Kiwis on the sideline at Anfield. ©Bernard Platt/NRL Photos

"Even now with little things I can tell the bus drivers what entrance to a stadium to go through where as often they don't know.

"It's also about catching up with old staff at hotels we re-book in and they're aware of what we need as a group to help prepare the side. It's attention to detail so all that the guys have to worry about is focusing on the game." 

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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