This weekend, the NRL celebrates ‘Women in League Round’; a time to recognise, celebrate and support the incredible females involved in rugby league at all levels.
Nathan Cleary and Matt Eisenhuth hold this cause close to their hearts, explaining that they wouldn’t be where they are without the support from the women closest to them.
“It’s awesome you know; I wouldn’t be anywhere without the women in my life. They’ve had a massive effect on me, not only as a person, but as a footy player as well,” Cleary said.
“I just think the game is doing a really good job at starting to recognise women and obviously the women’s game is starting to evolve, which is really cool to see. I’m really happy to have a round where we can celebrate women.”
Cleary acknowledges that his mum, Bec, is probably one of his biggest supporters, showing up to support her son at every game she can.
“She’s always the positive one. I remember when I was younger, I’d get in the car after a really bad game and Dad would sort of let me know but Mum would always be like, ‘aww you played alright’ and she still does that to this day.”
Panthers captains confident in 'next man up' O'Sullivan
While for Eisenhuth, the round provides him with the opportunity to reflect and acknowledge the special times he’s shared with the women closest to him.
“I think everyone’s got more than one woman in their life that’s played a special part. It’s no different for me. I’ve got my mum, my wife and my mother-in-law; they’ve all played massive parts in supporting me throughout my career,” he said.
Through injury setbacks, changing clubs and celebrating his 100th NRL game, Eisenhuth’s wife, Holly, has been there every step of the way.
“I’ve known her since I was 15 and I’m 30 next month. She’s ridden the rollercoaster with me the whole way through. She’s been my rock through the majority of those tough times. There’s also my mum and my mother-in-law there and they’re supportive and biased as always,” he joked.
“It’s good to be able to have a round dedicated to them.”
As high-profile athletes Cleary and Eisenhuth appreciate that their actions have an impact on junior rugby league, so to them, it’s important that their values and beliefs align with respecting and supporting women in the community.
“We’re role models for all sorts of kids and families, whether that’s young boys or girls, you’re a role model for everyone, so you’ve just got to be aware of that and behave accordingly,” Eisenhuth said.
Jersey Presentation: Matt Eisenhuth
“I think it’s massive, the more we can instil that in young kids, that we need to be respecting women, the better.” A round like this is really good for it and as I said, without women in our lives us men would be nothing,” Cleary said.
In line with the theme ‘Play Your Part to Change the Story’, Penrith Panthers has nominated Junior League Administrator Kylie Fitzpatrick as a role model, to highlight the important part she plays in driving increased opportunities for women, both on and off field.
With a passion for participation and the growth of Rugby League at the forefront of everything she does Kylie has fostered and nurtured community based rugby league programs, including female based competitions for the past three years.
Another key role has been to provide governance and education tools for 24 junior league clubs and to develop engagement strategies for the growth of female participation in western Sydney.
Kylie also provides round the clock support for all 24 clubs during pre and post season, ensuring the volunteers on the ground are looked after and have the full support of Panthers Juniors.
Match: Eels v Panthers
Round 20 -
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Sydney