As the countdown continues to the inaugural Women’s Rugby League World Cup, the Sutherland Shire Business Chamber last week partnered with the Cronulla Sharks to host a networking night in promotion of the event.
Kicking off on November 16, the competition will see six international teams from Australia, England, New Zealand, Canada, Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea battle it out for the first ever women’s World Cup title. The Shire is set to host the festivities, with eleven international games to be played at Cronulla’s Southern Cross Group Stadium including all pool and semi-final matches.
The popularity and participation in women’s rugby league across the country has grown ten-fold over the last few years. Statistics show that more than 180,000 women and girls are now playing the sport across Australia, with 90 female only competitions run nationally. The number of female participants climbs to over half a million with the inclusion of touch rugby league.
Professionalism in the sport has also been improved drastically in recent times. In November 2016, Jillaroos star forward Ruan Sims made history when she signed the first ever women’s NRL contract with the Sharks. Since Sims put pen to paper, another 20 women have secured NRL playing contracts, training three times a week and playing matches throughout this year.
Tim Thorne, Group GM of Engagement and Pathways at the Sharks, told the audience of local business owners of his pride at the role the Sharks have played in the significant development in women’s rugby league.
“We wanted to treat our female athletes as well as we possibly could, and as equal as we possibly could to the men’s program,” he said.
“We wanted to make sure we had an elite level and that all the steps to that elite level [lead to] the Sharks … When women first started playing the game, all we heard were giggles around the stadium. At the end of that game, all we heard were cheers.
“It’s important to note that there were a lot of times we had to break down barriers. But it’s made the moment so much prouder … This is probably one of the proudest moments of my personal career, and one of the proudest of our club’s.”
Maria Sykes, COO of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, was also on hand to explain the positive effects the ground-breaking event will have not only for the progress of women’s rugby league, but for the Sutherland Shire community as a whole.
“This is about not only celebrating the vital role that women do play in sport and recognising the elite players of the game, but it reinforces that position that rugby league and sports administrators have of really embracing all members of the community,” Maria explained.
“It’s a great opportunity to showcase the Shire as a proud host of major international sporting events, and to really flex that muscle and to show that this is a very grown up and professional destination that is a worthy home of national and international significance.”
She also expressed the substantial role that local businesses are being asked to play in the promotion of the competition. Different areas of the Sutherland Shire will be allocated a second “adopted” team, and local businesses are set to be central in the support of these sides and in engaging the community.
“We want to invite local businesses to ‘World Cup-ify’ their businesses, and there will be incentives to do so. We would love businesses to adopt a nation; that will mean dressing up in the colours of Australia or the colours of Canada, or whatever the adopted nation,” said Maria.
A range of options are available for local businesses to get involved with the event, starting from simply engaging with social media on Twitter using the hashtag #WRLWC2017 or decorating your business premises with World Cup flyers, all the way through to corporate sponsorship opportunities. Prize incentives for participating businesses include a $1000 Harvey Norman voucher, special tickets to matches, and limited edition replica game balls to signify the momentous occasion.
You can secure your tickets to the 2017 Women’s Rugby League World Cup here. To enquire about the many ways your business can be involved with this historic event, contact SSBC chair Joanne Ryan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.