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Female coach at NRL ‘not too far away’, says Jillaroo’s mentor



The NRL says the rugby league has recorded a 98 per cent increase in female coaches at all levels of the game in the last five years, but has yet to see a single woman in a coaching role in all 16 NRL clubs.

“What we’ve done in the past was to say, ‘this is a really great footballer that he would make a great coach.’ Now not every great footballer makes a great coach,” Donald said. “Finding the right recipe is part of making sure the game is in good hands and women make up a massive, massive ingredient of it.”

Tahnee Norris with Jillaroos in 2016

Tahnee Norris with Jillaroos in 2016credit:NRL’s Photos

Coach Tahnee Norris has led the Burleigh Bears women to five prime ministers and has been hailed as one of the most likely candidates to join the NRL coaching ranks.

But even with a mentor to Brad Donald and over 20 years of experience in the game, Norris said she has struggled to make the move from the women’s game to that of the men.

“I’ve gone to some things the Titans have run, but it’s something the NRL can help with,” she said. “I do not know Trent Robinson, for example, but the NRL can set up an appointment.”

Norris said both the clubs and the NRL should do their part to ensure that female coaches have ways to move in the men’s space.

Jillaroos coach Brad Donald left.

Jillaroos coach Brad Donald’s Photos

“We need someone inside to advocate for this to happen, a great thing is building relationships and finding ways to get those opportunities,” she said.

The move to include women in club coaching staff has also been embraced internationally, particularly in the NFL.

Last week, Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio announced Emily Zaler, one of the team coach’s teammates, would join the team as a full-time coach.


Zaler joins a long list of women who have now joined the ranks of NFL coaches after Jen Welter was appointed in 2015 to a role as a training camp intern with the Arizona Cardinals.

In 2014, Becky Hammon became the first NBA assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, while Alyssa Nakken became the first female full-time coach in Major League Baseball history this year.

Donald believes that similar to women who are now hired as full-time arbitrators, all it will take is one to shape the future.

“It’s certainly a playing field we’re investing in,” he said. “We see a lot of women around the training staff … we are not very far away.”

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