It was a courageous decision by the NRL to hold a standalone Women’s State of Origin game last year. But it’s worked out beautifully.
Another great game on Friday night; another great crowd – plenty of men among the women and girls there at North Sydney Oval – and another terrific atmosphere.
Games like that are the best advertisement not just for the women’s game, but for rugby league as a whole.
I know there was some debate about images of NSW five-eighth Kirra Dibb with blood streaming down her face after a cut over her right eye.
Her head was strapped by trainers and she played on but some were asking is this the image the NRL wants to attract young girls to our great game? Or in fact to get the support of parents to let their daughters play league.
What that expresses to me is those players on Friday night love the game of rugby league and they’ll play it out of desire more so than what they look like.
League is a combative sport and it does bring out the best of character in people. It does also inspire people to challenge themselves, but there will be some who think that’s not the right image.
But you go and talk to those girls who play our game and hear how passionate they are about it.
Spilling a bit of blood doesn’t mean anything. It’s the creation and fulfilment of dreams that they’ve had since they were young. They want to participate at the highest level.
All the doomsayers can have their opinion but you chat with the women players. It might change how you think, because no one has a right to tell people what to do, or how to live their lives.
Certainly at Origin this game should remain standalone.
But internationally the Jillaroos and Kangaroos often play on the same day, as a double-header and I think that’s a tradition that should go on forever. I think the women should play on the big stage, before vast crowds, and in the big moments of our game like the Test arena, playing for their country.
Again, you ask the girls and they want to run out on Suncorp Stadium or ANZ Stadium to play a World Cup final, or an international on the same day as the men.
Playing those double-headers is not about inequality but it’s all about inclusiveness in bringing the men’s and women’s games together. That’s a hallmark of our game today.
And later this season, in the NRLW we’ll see the grand final as the curtain-raiser to the NRL grand final.
Getting back to Friday night’s game at North Sydney Oval, it was a gutsy effort by the Queenslanders but in the end the speed of the NSW side prevailed.
I’m impressed by the attitude the players put into the contest. It is Origin.
Both teams have really bought into the concept of it, of what it means to play for their state. And that’s fantastic.
The competitiveness and willingness to dig deep – they are all traits of Origin and they were very evident in that 14-4 win to NSW. With the amount of ball and field position NSW had in the second half, that score could have been anything but the Queenslanders kept turning up.
NSW controlled possession really well and they came away with a deserved victory.
Again, it was a magnificent night for our game. A real stepping stone for what will keep coming – quality women’s rugby league.
And people have voted with their feet and their money to go watch it.