Women’s State of Origin 2022: Sky Blues star Hannah Southwell leading the fight for change

Especially given this most ferocious of NSW Origin enforcers – truly, Google her name alongside the word ‘tackle’ – is referencing more than tonight’s impending showdown with Queensland, or even her signing with Newcastle Knights, but also that breakout role as spokesperson for all things NRLW.
Still only 23, Southwell is the voice women’s rugby league never knew it needed.
With her growing workload as an RLPA representative not only earning rave reviews behind the scenes, but increasingly, being compared to the aggressive playing style which, along with her trademark headgear, has become something of a ­signature.
Which is why, be it taking on Queensland in an Origin showdown, or NRL executives over coffee and a Milk Arrowroot, this damaging Novocastrian is ­undeniably all in.
Quizzed this week in Blues camp about her role with the RLPA, and if she really does take that notorious tackle technique into boardrooms, Southwell laughed: “Yeah, I think that’s true. Once I cross the white line on game day, I’m there to take somebody’s head off.
“And I have that same approach (when meeting) with the NRL.
“Obviously you have to be diplomatic. Listen to all sides. But when I’m going into bat for the women’s game, it’s definitely a similar approach to playing.”
Take, say, Southwell’s push for NRLW players to earn $100,000.
“And I understand these discussions are tricky,” continued the leaguie who has now been a union representative for just over a year.
“But something has to change. Personally, I think we should be paid the same as the blokes.
“But in saying that, we aren’t stupid.
“We understand this is a business and that we’re not generating the same as the NRL. But still, we are the fastest growing female sport in this country.
“And there certainly needs to be a high level of investment from the NRL to keep growing this game. So I’d like to see wages at $100,000.”
Pushed on the issue, Southwell suggested NRLW players had to become fulltime professionals for the game to reach its potential.
“And if people don’t start changing the way they see the NRLW,” she warned, “other sports will ­overtake us.”
Following the recent NRLW expansion to 10 teams, Southwell also revealed the RLPA was now working overtime to ensure the welfare of those younger players who will be brought in to make up numbers.
So as for Southwell heading that push?
“I really want to be a voice for the women’s game and think I can make change,” she said. “So I’m happy to speak up for those who don’t really want to do that themselves. In the past we haven’t had a big voice. But now, yeah, people are ­starting to listen.”
Elsewhere, Southwell stressed care must also be taken when determining exactly where the NRLW seasons sit in the Australian sports calendar.
Currently, there are separate arguments for the women playing before the NRL season, after it, even running out on the same day before their male counterparts.
“And to run out in Newcastle before the men played, that would be a dream come true,” Southwell said. “I’d have no issues with that at all. Same with playing before or after the NRL season.”

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