Knights coach Ron Griffiths says he’s proud to be joining an NRLW community leading the way in the Indigenous space with every club continuing to remain represented for the 2022 season.
Griffiths will become the third Indigenous coach alongside Jamie Soward and Dean Widders to take charge of an NRLW side for the upcoming competition after being appointed new Knights coach in April.
Broncos pair Scott Prince and Bo de la Cruz, Roosters physio Melinda Dennis and Titans strength and conditioning coach Jayden Chadburn are also all Indigenous with the NRLW offering a platform to support Indigenous coaching pathways.
In Australia, only three percent of the population identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
The NRL has 12 percent of players in the competition identifying as Indigenous while the NRLW’s figure is slightly higher at 14 percent.
Junior rugby league numbers are around 20 percent and staff working at the NRL sits at 11 percent.
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Griffiths was one of only a handful of Indigenous coaches in the NRL during his three-year stint as an assistant at the Wests Tigers but has noticed more representation in the NRLW since coming on board as Knights coach.
"To have 50 percent coaching in the NRLW is a fantastic achievement but overall I believe we’re a little way off as a game,” Griffiths told NRL.com while on set with NRL commercial partners Youi.
“We want to be the leaders in this space. There’s a lot of roles in the NRL where we need to create a better plan with more opportunities and I believe that is slowly happening.
"We’ve got a crop of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people developing in the game and whether it’s players, coaches or support staff, it’s important we bring them through and give them the same opportunities."
Two of Griffiths’ first three signings at the Knights for their second NRLW campaign are Indigenous All Stars duo Caitlan Johnston and Tamika Upton, while Millie Boyle also joins from the Broncos.
On Upton and Boyle, Griffiths believes the club have secured two of the best players in the game.
“They’re monumental signings,” he said.
“They’re both at the top of their game so importantly it continues the growth of rugby league in Newcastle, which has such a stronghold but attracting two players of their calibre gives us more external interest.
“It will have a snowball effect on the team and the community.”
Griffiths has an extensive career in rugby league including a long-time affiliation with local Newcastle club Kurri Kurri Bulldogs.
He’s also spent time as both men’s and women’s Indigenous All Stars assistant coach while more recently he finished up a three-year stint under Michael Maguire at the Wests Tigers.
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“Late last year I started the NRL pre-season and then an opportunity came up to move back home and be part of the NRLW,” he said.
“I’m a footy nut from a football family. My wife and kids always come and support so from that perspective to have a head coaching job at that level is exciting.
“I’m excited for the calibre and people at the club we’ve got coming and I think the results will be fantastic at the end of the year.”
The Knights struggled in their first campaign, going winless in five matches after finding it hard to attract talent for their inaugural season.
“I take away a lot from it, a lot of learnings,” Griffiths said. “The big thing from our perspective was they built the foundation. They represented themselves adequately.
“They had to rush to bring players from overseas and really struggled to gel in a short timeframe but Casey (Bromilow) and the staff did a fantastic job with the resources they had.
“We’ve been able to take the positives out of the 2021 season and build on it for 2022.”