Women in League Profiles

Julia Bennison - RLEF Regional Director (Eastern Europe)
Sarah Bennison - Match Official and Level 2 Coach
Ebony Blake - RFL South East Development Officer
Sally Bolton - Director of Events and Projects, RFL
Debbie Drake - Coventry Bears Player Coach
Kim Field - England Women and Combined Services player
Catriona Hall - Volunteer
Nagibe Hamze - PE Teacher, Rugby League Coach and Match Official: Lebanon Schools
June Kennedy - Workington Town Chief Executive
Julia Lee - Head of Participation and Regions, RFL
Joyce Matthews - Newcastle School Sport Partnership Development Manager
Clare Morrow - Non Executive Director, RFL
Angela Powers - Sky Sports Rugby League Presenter
Clare Robinson - RFL North West Volunteer Co-ordinator
Hilary Steel MBE - Rugby League Volunteer
Kat Steinberg - Headingley Stadium Ground Safety Officer

Julia Bennison - RLEF Regional Director (Eastern Europe)

JBennison

I got involved in Rugby League in 2005 when Rugby League European Federation began to expand further in Europe and needed  assistance of a “Russian Native based in the UK”.

By then I`ve already been a Widnes Vikings supporter for a number of years, new and liked the game, so I immediately thought “That`s me!” And what a great opportunity to help develop the game in Russian speaking Countries. Since then I`ve come from just improving communications between the Countries to becoming RLEF Eastern Europe Regional Director and helping the Nations I work with develop in all aspects of Rugby League.

The key achievements are – helping start RL in 2 new Countries (Ukraine and Latvia) and becoming the key point of contact for those Countries and Russia in all important interactions Related to RL. I enjoy being involved in RL because I love the game, I meet a lot of great people through it  and want it to grow bigger and stronger in my home Country and others.

Sarah Bennison - Match Official and Level 2 Coach

SarahBennison

“I first got involved in Rugby League in September 2006 when I took the match officials 13-a-side course at Shaw Cross. Then in August 2007 I became involved in the coaching side taking my level 1 qualification, furthering this to level 2 in October 2009

My main role in the sport is as an RFL match official and I am currently graded as a grade 2 touch judge qualifying me for Championship and Championship 1 games.

I am also in the development group of referees qualifying me to referee National Conference games, Gillette Conference Youth and Scholarship games.

Also I do the odd bits of coaching these days and aspire when I graduate to get a job in Rugby League.

I became the first female to referee a Pennine League cup final at Dewsbury in 2009 and the first female to Touch Judge a professional game in March 2010 at Blackpool v Rochdale. I became the first female to cover a televised game in 2010 on the Hunslet v Workington game.

My ambitions are to have the opportunity to referee in the National Conference and Touch Judge a Super League game.

 

Ebony Blake - RFL South East Development Officer

EbonyBlake

“I've been a Rugby League fan for as long as i can remember. Growing up in Queensland Australia, I was surrounded by Rugby League and always wanted to make a career it. I first got the opportunity to work in Rugby League in 2008 in London when i became the community development manager at Harlequins RL.

Currently, I am the RFL Regional Development Officer for South East England. My role is to develop Rugby League clubs, competitions and activities across this region. I am also the regional lead on Women's and Girls Rugby League across London and the South, which is very challenging but very exciting.

Some of my key achievements and successes include securing £200,000 for the Harlequins RL Community programme in 2009, coordinating the women's and girls programme that grew over 300% between 2008 and 2010. Other achievements include managing the Harlequins Rugby League Development team that reached over 20,000 young people a year and starting an RFL Women's regional league in London.”

 

Sally Bolton - Director of Events and Projects, RFL

SallyBolton

“My first job in Rugby League was working for the RFL on the Centenary celebrations for the sport and the World Cup that was staged in 1995. This role was working as assistant in the marketing and commercial department with lots of very hands on involvement in the delivery of the tournament.

Since then I have worked at Leeds Rhinos in the commercial and marketing department, worked at Super League (Europe) Ltd as Events & Operations Manager, at Wigan RL as CEO. 

I arrived back at the RFL in 2007 as Events Manager, which became Events & Projects Director and now Director of Projects & Planning.

My current role is as the lead on planning for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.  In addition, I work closely with the CEO on strategic planning and reporting for the organisation as well as project managing a number of cross departmental projects.

Two of my proudest achievements are being Event Manager and leading the team who staged the first ever Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford in 1998 and being asked to lead on the RLWC 2013 project which is a unique privilege.

 

Debbie Drake - Coventry Bears Player Coach

DebbieDrake

“I was first introduced to the sport at University in Coventry as my housemates played for the Men’s Rugby League team at the University in about 1998. Five years later I got the great opportunity to start coaching the team in Coventry after being a club coach at University.

My proudest playing achievement was I think captaining our side to winning the Student Championships at Coventry University. In coaching my proudest achievement was my school team beating a school team from Wigan in the Carnegie Champion Schools tournament.

My ambition is to see successful teams at every age group at Coventry and seeing players that I have coached developing in the sport.” 

Kim Field - England Women and Combined Services player

KimField

“I started playing rugby when I was just 8 years old, I played rugby union for Huddersfield YMCA played alongside the boys up until the age of 13.

I was also playing football from the age of 8 so I had something else to play when I stopped playing union. In the year 2000 at the age of 16 my football team folded so I thought I would go back to playing rugby.

I started off playing touch rugby every Monday through the summer. I was approached by the Halifax ladies RLFC coach, and he asked if I wanted to play for them.

I was 17 when I started my first season of Rugby League with Halifax. I fell in love with the game straight away and I couldn’t get enough of it. I was then picked to join the England u21’s training squad, and then within a few months I got asked if I would like to train with the Great Britain open age squad.

I had a knee injury and operattion and after a few months I was back playing again, I played for Yorkshire and just concentrated on club rugby. Halifax folded in 2004 so I made the move to Wakefield ladies rlfc.

In 2007 I joined the RAF and it wasn’t long until I was playing for the ladies combined services rugby league team. During my time in the RAF I took a break from playing at club level for Wakefield due to my training.

At the end of 2009 I decided to rejoin Wakefield and I was picked to join the Talent Development Squad. In September 2010 I was selected as part of the England squad to go to New Zealand and play the Kiwi Ferns in two test matches.

Currently I am training with the Talent Development Squad and our next aim is to be fit and ready for the women’s world cup in 2013.”

 

Catriona Hall - Volunteer

CatrionaHall

“I am 19 years old now, and started playing 6 years ago at the age of 13. I had successes which included representing the North West in 2005 in the under 14s and in 2007 with the under 16s.

At the age of 16 i undertook my Level 1 and took up a coaching role with the under 12, under 14 and under 16 girls at Chorley Panthers. I am currently still undertaking this role, along with a coaching role with the under 18 boys at this club also. 

I am undertaking my level 2 coaching course this spring.

My key roles are the above coaching role and my volunteering roles with the RFL.

My key achievements and successes include being an assistant coach to the under 14s girls North West squad, winning the Lancashire sports awards young volunteer of the year as a local winner for Chorley in November 2009, winning the RFL’s volunteer awards for the Lancashire service area as young volunteer of the year in 2008 and 2010.

Other achievements include being selected for the last two years to help with the RFL’s Carnegie Champion Schools Finals and in 2009 was also selected as one of the volunteers to help on the day of the finals at Wembley.

In May 2010 I was asked to join a small team of volunteers and RFL staff to go to Russia for 10 days to teach them tag rugby and form a tournament just like the champion schools here in England.

This by far is one of the most rewarding, enjoyable experiences I have been part of and wouldn’t have been able to do so without the support from my club and the RFL for allowing me to volunteer in Rugby League.”

 

Nagibe Hamze - PE Teacher, Rugby League Coach and Match Official: Lebanon Schools

Nagibe Hamze

My current role is a Physical Education teacher with the government schools. I received an invitation from the Tripoli Education Department asking whoever was interested in learning about a new sport called Rugby League as there was a group of foreigners led by Remond Safi educating everyone about the game and how to deliver it in constructed session. After being interested in the game and the way the LRLF are operating I took a level 1 coaching and match official course.

I am qualified as a level 1 Coach and match official, I coach Kfhabou high school, and the U16s 2009-2010 team, also with Tripoli city Rugby League Club I run the community program with other coaches.

I believe my key achievements are that I’m able to be treated equally with the men in this domain and when I speak about rugby league people want to listen and see if my philosophy is different to a Man’s philosophy in rugby league.

Rugby league is a new sport in Lebanon and I feel that it is really able to help people change their lives as I have witnessed it myself, it provides a way for players to release their frustrations which also provides the core values taught by Rugby League in daily lives.

June Kennedy - Workington Town Chief Executive

JKennedy

June Kennedy

“When I got married to John in 1973 I think I married Workington Town as well. John has always had a connection with the club both as a supporter and volunteer when he went down both on training nights and on match days.

We got married in March and I always remember him coming home from training one night with a bag of shirts and number patches and asking “Can you sew these on for Thursday?” I then repaired the team shirts, made sandwiches for the “A” team when they travelled away as John always travelled away with them.

In 1975 I was asked to help with the lottery collecting the money from the agents, you just seem to get drawn into the club as everyone just worked together so I ended up in the office. Once you got settled in with one job you just seem to take on more and I ended up looking after the stadium and doing match day administration.

After Hillsborough the safety of spectators took a big turn so I think I volunteered to look after the Health and Safety of Spectators, with help from the then Safety Officer and Manchester United we put together all the documents required. Safety in sports grounds is something that changes all the time but the Safety Officer and I work well together making sure everything is right.

Looking after the ground safety is quite a challenge, there was an incident at a football match in the area with a supporter being involved in a racism incident for which he was prosecuted. It was know that he visited both football and rugby games in the county, we did not want this to happen in our sport so I decided to do something about it. With help from the Cumbria Director of Ground safety, the police and club solicitor “Cumbria Stadium Watch” was founded. I wrote all the policy’s etc which the solicitor checked the legal part until the final document was achieved.

This document had been shown to the then Minister of Sport Mr Coban who supported what we were doing and he agreed to attend the launch of the scheme which involved all the Sports Grounds in Cumbria, it was decided that the motto would be “Banned from One Banned from All”. Since the launch we have only banned 2 people and have had very little trouble at any of the grounds. My work on this was recognised by The West Cumbria Crime & Disorder who presented me with an award.

I was asked by the club President Tom Mitchell if I would become the first lady Director and take a seat on the Board as I was in charge of the day to day running of the club. After 3 years on the Board it was agreed that having to attend meetings in the evening etc. was just too much and I seem to have no time for my family, so I returned to the day to day running and became the General Manager, then becoming the Chief Executive.

My role at the club have been many over the years the best thing to say is I have not coached or played for the club but done about everything else from cleaning changing rooms and toilets to making meals for the players even doing some of the overseas players washing.

During my many years we have had both success and been down and fighting to keep going. I remember the 1970’s winning the Lancashire cup, 1990’s winning the Championship and getting to Old Trafford, on the 1st visit losing to Featherstone and Jimmy Pickering getting his shirt ripped off, no spare shirt. The following year returning and beating London to bring the cup home this time.

Everyone was behind the club then, good attendance at games to be followed by being one of the inaugural teams in Super league one. The club could not sustain its position in this league and where relegated and the club ended up in administration, it was a very difficult time for everyone involved with the club. I was the only member of staff kept on until some local business men got together and saved the club and brought other staff in.

When I started helping at the club in 1973 I had no idea how involved I would become and what a big part it would play in my life. I have only achieved what I have to date by having a very supportive husband and family not forgetting the people at the club who have supported me and without their help I could not have done what I have. It was a great honour when the RFL awarded me by adding my name to the Roll of Honour for outstanding services to the game. I have made a lot of friends and have many memory’s, you always remember the good times.

I can only finish by saying: I love my job at Workington Town.”

 

Julia Lee - Head of Participation and Regions, RFL

JuliaLee

“As Head of Participation at the RFL, I work alongside the RFL’s Regional Managers to deliver the community strategy which outlines how the investment from Sport England and the RFL will be used to increase the number of teams and increase the sport’s geographical spread in England.

The role involves working directly with Sport England and reporting on the Whole Sport Plan as well as working closely with a variety of other national partners including the Youth Sport Trust.

I have been working for the RFL for over 10 years and I have worked my way up from Leeds Service Area Coordinator to North West then Yorkshire Regional Manager to National Manager.

Previous to that I was a match official for 15 years officiating professional games and internationals and was the first female match official in England and Australia. I have also played the game and coached.”

 

Jade Mackie - North East Youth Volunteer Coordinator

JadeMackie

I was first introduced to Rugby League 5 years ago when I took up a placement opportunity at Gateshead Thunder as a Sports Therapist. My role involved rehabilitation and pre and post game massage; in my first season with Gateshead Thunder they were promoted to the Championship and my passion for Rugby League began.

I stayed with Gateshead Thunder and on graduating from University I applied for a job as a v Officer for the North East. I commenced employment with the RFL in 2008 and thoroughly enjoy my role as it is so varied. In addition to my role dealing with volunteers at events, I also work closely with the clubs in the North East dealing with funding, clubmark and much more; I am also the Junior League Secretary for the North East and Student Rugby League representative.

Through my role I have had the opportunity to attend the National Champion Schools Finals, Super League Grand Final and Challenge Cup Final all of which have been amazing.

Since I began employment with the RFL, Rugby League in the North East has grown so much and it makes me so proud when our Universities, Schools and Club teams grow and perform so well in competitions. 

In the North East we have a really strong core team of staff who are all dedicated to progressing Rugby League in the North East, it would be great if one day a North East University were crowned Super 8 Champions or a North East School Team won a Champion Schools Finals these are all ambitions everyone in the North East are working towards.

Joyce Matthews - Newcastle School Sport Partnership Development Manager

JoyceMatthews

I am the mother of two Superleague Academy players, Crawford and Sinclair, who play for Hull FC Under 20 Academy and Leeds Rhinos U16 Academy respectively, as well as representing Scotland.

The sport has become a big part of my life over the last 6 years, since Crawford started playing for local team Gateshead Panthers, and then Sinclair joined Wallsend Eagles. Living in the North East of England and being of Scottish heritage, is not the usual pedigree for rugby league players. So you could say that our family has broken the mould when it comes to rugby league stereotypes.

As a rugby league parent, I’ve supported the boys’ development from local teams, to regional service areas, to international representations. From shouting on the sideline, to washing kit, to taxiing the boys all over the country, to waving a Scotland flag in Belgrade, I’m a very proud Mum.

I’ve been fortunate to have travelled with the sport, watching professional teams, and supporting my boys. From Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow to Ada Ciganlija in Belgrade, via other grounds such as Odsal and The Jungle, you could say I’ve experiences a good variety of the facilities on offer to rugby league.

Personally, I’ve fulfilled just about every role there is in sport; a PE teacher, a coach, an advisor, a lecturer, a manager of a School Sport Partnership, a supportive mum, a fanatical fan and a player of many different sports over the years.  And being married to an ex rugby union player, it is no great surprise that I have two aspiring professional athletes for my sons.

As well as still playing hockey, running and skiing, I’ve recently succumbed to the rugby bug, and started playing Touch for fun as well. This has provided me with the unique opportunity of playing with my sons, and occasionally against them.

And to underline my passion for the sport, I’ve written this at the side of a pitch, while waiting for my younger son to finish his weekly training session with Leeds Rhinos before I start the long drive back up the road to Newcastle. Well at least it makes a change from driving to Glasgow for training with the Scotland team!

Clare Morrow - Non Executive Director, RFL

ClareMorrow

“I am currently Chair of the tourism marketing agency Welcome to Yorkshire. I previously spent 15 years at ITV Yorkshire, where I was Controller of News and Regional Programmes. During my time at ITV, I also held the position of Head of Sport for a time and was responsible for Yorkshire Television’s Rugby League output for many years.

This included the creation, development and production of the Rugby League Raw series of programmes which won several national Royal Television Society sports awards.

I am a non executive director of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Network Manager of the Broadcasting and Creative Industries Disability Network and also a trustee and school governor at Hollybank School in Mirfield.”

 

Angela Powers - Sky Sports Rugby League Presenter

AngelaPowers

“I am Sky Sports Rugby League reporter, covering the sport nationally. Previously I was sports producer on BBC North West Tonight.

My television career began at the BBC, where I was a regional journalist before working for three years with the regional documentary strand Close Up North, making films on subjects such as the Gulf War, the poll tax and the personal story of a terminally-ill man who died as a result of smoking.

Other roles at the BBC in the North West include bi-media reporter (working with the local radio stations) and bi-media producer, co-ordinating the output of the region's pool of correspondents.

I spent several years co-ordinating the regional news programme's sports output, before joining BSkyB as dedicated RL reporter and presenter of the weekly highlights show Boots n All The Tries. I write, produce and present the annual season review, a two-hour show broadcast over the Christmas period.

My journalistic career began in local newspapers. I trained with the Warrington Guardian Series, and am NCTJ qualified. I still enjoy writing, and am regularly commissioned to contribute to sports publications including books, magazines and brochures.

I also enjoy presenting/MC'ing events such as the Lancashire Sports Awards, the Great Northern Cook-Off annual awards and Super League clubs' annual dinners.

I have carried out media training sessions with various organisations and individuals, including aspiring journalists, professionals interested in career development and sports professionals.

I am on the panel of judges for the Manchester Inspiring Young Woman of the Year award, one of the most prestigious awards given at the annual Manchester Inspiring Women event.

For the past two years I have also been on the judging panel of the Lancashire Sports Awards, which recognise sporting talent in Lancashire and the selfless, tireless work done by volunteers in the county.

I am currently working on a TV drama script and my goal? To get it in production.”

 

Clare Robinson - RFL North West Volunteer Co-ordinator

ClareRobinson

I first became involved in Rugby when I started playing Rugby Union at Loughborough university, after which got a job working for the RFL. I was initially interested in playing Rugby League during the summer only to stay fit but I enjoyed the game so much that I decided not to go back to Union.

I feel that my key achievements in my working life have been assisting in the development of Womens Rugby League in the North West over the last year. I am proud to have helped increase the opportunities that women and girls have now compared to the limited opportunities that were available to me prior to attending university.

I am also proud of my playing achievements within Rugby League. I play for Warrington Women and received my first England Cap when i was selected to play against France in the July 2010 Test. I have subsequently received another 4 caps bringing my current tally to 5.

Hilary Steel MBE

HilarySteelMBE

About 30 years ago, I started to work behind the bar at Rylands Recreation Club where there was an open age rugby team known as Rylands.

I started to sell raffle tickets for them.   It took three years for the players to agree to having a woman on their committee. I got more and more involved and eventually became Secretary and treasurer.

We started youth teams at Under 16s several times, but no teams were moving up to that age and the players from the teams we started moved to open age.   Through this age group I got involved with youth rugby and I volunteered to do the minutes for the NWC Youth committee working with the late Mike Morrissey BARLA Chairman.

In June 2009 I was awarded an MBE for Services to Rugby League  in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, presented by  HRH Prince Charles
 
I treasure all of my awards and am very proud to have been recognised for my efforts. They are all displayed in my house for anyone who enters to see. 

The people involved with rugby league are of a certain kind - we are all friends together and we all work willingly together for the furtherment and improvement of rugby league at all levels.  I have made many friends through rugby league. Perhaps a worn out cliche, but "We are a family."
 
I feel that my reward comes when young people who are playing rugby league recognise me and shout "Hi Hilary" .  Without rugby league they could be roaming the streets possibly with a view to vandalism or theft.   
 
I am always without fail, made to feel welcome wherever I go within rugby league circles.
 
My life has been made richer by my involvement with rugby league at all levels.

Kat Steinberg - Headingley Stadium Ground Safety Officer

KatSteinberg

“I have been involved in Rugby League since the start of the 2007 Super League Season at Headingley having come from a Cricket background. Initially I was an event manager for the stewarding provider at Headingley and responsible for service levels at the venue.

My present role is that of Stadium Safety Manager and Match day Safety Officer for both clubs.

I make sure that everybody who comes on site is safe and has an enjoyable experience.

All my team are of course supporting the Rhinos and being part of the match day atmosphere of a Super League champion team three seasons in a row in front of massive crowds was a privilege. Key success for me means every time we have a match when we can say that all visitors had a great time, everybody was safe and went home happy. I can’t ask for any more than that.”