BY ADAM HAYWARD @Hayward_AdamK
Australia celebrated Harmony Day on March 21st, celebrating our multiculturalism, inclusiveness, diversity, respect and the continuing message that ‘everyone belongs’ and the National Rugby League prides itself on being a leader when it comes to harmony in sports.
The NRL works hard to promote equality of opportunity in all its forms, encouraging everyone to get involved in the game. The various cultural celebrations and initiatives implemented by the NRL shows they have become a benchmark sporting organization not only in Australia, but world sport as well in promoting inclusivity.
Annual harmony and multicultural rugby league tournaments are run across Australia, giving players at all levels the opportunity to participate in teams that represent their community, culture or country of birth.
In 2017, the NRL kicked off its inaugural women’s premiership competition in 2018, naming its top 40 contracted women which the majority were spread evenly across four clubs – Brisbane Broncos, Sydney Roosters, St George Illawarra Dragons and NZ Warriors, with more clubs to be introduced in the coming seasons.
These women also have the opportunity to be selected for State of Origin (Qld and NSW), to represent their country in international fixtures and compete in the Brisbane and Sydney competitions.
The NRL is also proud to celebrate international women’s day and its annual ‘women in league’ round, celebrating all women involved in rugby league from players, coaches, training staff, referees, administrators, journalists, volunteers at junior levels and even mum’s who take their kids to their footy games every weekend.
The NRL’s ‘Pride in League’ initiative was honoured with the Pride in Sport award as the highest-ranking sporting organization for their support of the LBGT+ community. Pride in League is also proud to have participated in Sydney’s annual Mardi Gras event over the past few years.
The popular pre-season All Stars clash between Australian Indigenous and New Zealand Maori is an exhibition match and the celebration of two cultures with a significant representation in the game of rugby league and a showcase of the most exciting talent in the NRL.
Indigenous talent has been showcased in rugby league for decades now, with rugby league immortal, the late great Arthur Beetson become the first Aborigine to captain Australia in 1973 and captaining Queensland in the first ever State of Origin game in 1980.
Souths, Manly and North Queensland great Ian Roberts, came out as the first openly gay rugby league player in 1997 and is regarded as one of the toughest forwards to ever play the game.
Australian Jillaroos representatives Karina Brown and Vanessa Foliaki put their relationship on hold as they clashed in the inaugural women’s State of Origin, with Brown captaining Queensland and Foliaki representing New South Wales, but proudly shared their love with a kiss (pictured) at the conclusion of the game.
We’re seeing the rise of smaller nations in international rugby league such as Tonga, Samoa and Fiji – with players making huge financial sacrifices they’d receive playing for a top tier nation (Aus, NZ and ENG), instead choosing pride and passion in representing their heritage.
The NRL can be proud of the legacy they’re creating with inclusivity, so regardless of your culture, gender, sexuality, religion or social background, you have a place in rugby league.
Featured photo: Kids at the NRL’s Harmony Festival in Queensland. Photo: Facebook/inleagueinharmony