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NRL to have float at 2021 Mardi Gras

The NRL will participate in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras for the sixth time at the SCG on Saturday night to celebrate inclusiveness and the LGBTIQA+ community.

It remains the first and only national sporting organisation to have its own float in the parade, with NRLW players Holli Wheeler and Shontelle Stowers to represent the game in this year's event.

Dragons, NSW and Australia lock Wheeler told NRL.com she was excited about her first Mardi Gras experience alongside Stowers, who joined the Warriors from the Roosters last season.

"Being in a same-sex relationship myself, that drew me to wanting to be a part of Mardi Gras itself," Wheeler told NRL.com.

"The NRL is such an inclusive organisation, and it's amazing to see the equal platform that they provide anyone in the game. I know other sports don't provide that. It's such a great organisation to be a part of."

Holli Wheeler in action for the Jillaroos.
Holli Wheeler in action for the Jillaroos. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Wheeler, who missed the 2020 NRLW season due to a knee injury, said she wasn't sure what to expect but would "embrace" the festivities.

She added that same-sex relationships were wholeheartedly accepted, supported and normal in NRLW circles.

"It's definitely not an issue at all. It's not even something that's spoken about, to be honest, which is pretty cool," she said.

Warriors NRLW star Shontelle Stowers.
Warriors NRLW star Shontelle Stowers. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"Especially in our Jillaroos family and our rep families and our NRL clubs, we all focus on making sure the girls are all included and we're embracing everyone's cultures and backgrounds.

"If someone's got a story to tell, we're so happy to hear it and we all just embrace it. I think by doing that – sharing our backgrounds, our stories, our differences – it allows us to come together as one a lot easier, and it provides that openness and a family feel."

The NRL is continuing to drive its key message of Pride in League. The code is a proud member of Pride in Sport, earning the Highest Ranking National Sporting Organisation award in 2018.

The New South Wales Rugby League announced on Friday afternoon that it had also partnered with Pride in Sport.

"We aim to further our inclusive practices so that everyone feels welcome," NSWRL CEO David Trodden said.

"NSWRL is committed to providing a safe, fun and inclusive environment for all people, including those of diverse sexualities and genders. Being an inclusive sport not only reflects our core values, it also reflects the diversity of our local communities."

At the 2017 grand final, the NRL famously had US rapper Macklemore perform his hit song Same Love, which promotes marriage equality, when Australia was in the midst of a postal vote on the topic.

Following Mardi Gras, International Women's Day on Monday gives the game another opportunity to champion equality and celebrate the countless women who contribute so much to rugby league.

Wheeler said she was "really proud" of the NRL for investing in the women's game and creating opportunities across the board.