We just watched the Women in League TVC made by the NRL and it’s a bit beautiful, don’t you think?
Beautifully written, beautifully made and a beautiful example of how much people can give to something they love, like their kids, or plain old footy, without being paid big bucks or lavished with attention.
It also says to girls and young women something you’d kinda hope to say to every kid: that what you do with your time is valuable. That even if it doesn’t feel like people care, hard work is its own reward. That sooner or later, the world will notice. That you should and can do whatever you choose to do, even if it doesn’t seem glamorous or impressive.
But for girls, that’s where it gets a bit tricky. If you get what you want, and if what you want is a chance to make a living in rugby league, then all of a sudden there’s a whole lot of can’t in your life.
Can’t buy shoes with peep-toes anymore cause people with spikes are running in the vicinity.
Can’t quite manage to find a unisex polo shirt that fits.
Can’t travel with the team cause there’s no-one to room with.
Can’t pee for the next twenty minutes cause there are naked dudes in there changing.
Can’t go into the sheds with the other journos and interview players because the stadium security guard doesn’t think ladies belong there.
Can’t guarantee I won’t crack it if another person asks me where I “picked up” my workmates when they see us in a pub.
Can’t get drawn into an argument when people say the team’s playing “like fucking girls!”
Can’t remember the last time you got your hair-colour done.
Can’t be bothered answering that question in the press box cause you always just ask my male colleague afterwards anyway.
But the truth is … can’t is not unusual. You can’t find an easy job in footy, no matter how hard you look and no matter what you’re hiding under your team-issue trackies. For most, a full-time job means seven days a week, because footy waits for no man (or woman). It means arriving at 8am to start supervising preparations for a 7.30pm kick-off. It means staying until 1am to film and upload press conferences and interviews. It means coming into the office at 5am to read through all the emails from fans with suggestions for changes to the playing roster: “dear sir, thank you for your email …”
I’ve met the ladies and men who do all those jobs.
For the guys who wear jerseys, it means pushing your body to its limits, a public private life, and the chance that living your dream will leave you in pain for the rest of your life.
So why would you bother? At least the players get fame for a little while, glory if they’re lucky, and riches if they sign up with a media network once they retire.
Everyone else just gets a polo shirt and a party pie on game day.
The real question is how could you NOT bother?
For every johnny anonymous who calls you a slut, there are ten men with the kind of crows feet that come from watching a footy team train every morning who will sit down and have a beer with you and talk about the game. For a girl who’s been more used to being told she doesn’t understand offside and marker defence, that feels like a gold medal.
Honestly, it’s not soccer! IT’S PRETTY STRAIGHTFORWARD. I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND.
Or a premiership-winning captain who’ll stick his head in and tell you that you look like a million bucks. Probably because you wore lipstick that day. Fancy!
Best of all, there’s the hug that comes after you win a game you were written-off in and you could swear every one of your 8pm rage-outs in the office actually helped it happen.
There is nothing like it. It’s the closest you can ever hope to get to the game you love. Toilets with no hand soap in them don’t mean much in comparison.
Sure, maybe because of your ladyparts … you could never have achieved it in an NRL jersey. But you got the next best thing.
And that’s the answer to the final question: why Women in League round?
Because, like men who want to become nurses, or women who want to fix cars, women who make a living in rugby league do it hard. They take second-best to get there from people who don’t think chicks belong anywhere near a footy field, or people who simply think they’re strange.
Sometimes, they take second-best because they think there will never be a chance for them to run out in a women’s rugby league competition for anything more than a bag of peanuts and a few heckles.
And outside the NRL, they do it for love not money. They do it to try and make sure that their own kids can have everything they want, including a chance to put on their size small junior socks and play footy on the weekend.
So why not have a week to stop and say to all the women in league: good job, ladies … and sorry about the polo shirts.