Australian Jillaroo and NRL All Star Maddie Studdon on training and playing between shifts as a stevedore. By Richard Cooke.


Her own league: Maddie Studdon, 22, rugby league player

Women’s rugby league has definitely changed.

I started when I was young – I grew up playing with the boys, up to 12 years old. Then I had to stop. When I hit 16 there wasn’t much girls’ football happening, but in the last probably three to four years it’s picked up. Especially after the past year. It is growing, and there’s more pathways coming along now. The young girls have a way to come through all the representative stages.

The ladies who played before us, they paved the way and they did it the hard way. They had to sell their cars and get loans to travel overseas just to play the game. To see that and respect them, I think that’s what brings a lot of girls together.

Rugby league is the greatest sport of all. I tried union before and I didn’t like it. I’ve always grown up with rugby league in my family. I don’t think I would change codes any time soon. Rugby league is just a great sport, I love the contact and I like studying the game.

I started playing touch football as well. When I couldn’t play rugby league anymore I went to play touch football, and I played representative touch as well. I love the contact though. I just think it’s more intense and physical and I like that part of it. I get more involved and aggressive in the play. We engage players.

When I was coming up in my younger days at Mascot I was playing with the boys. All the boys and family would say, “You’re going to be a future star.” I didn’t even know aged 12 that there was an Australian Jillaroos team. I didn’t know that much about rugby league when I was a younger girl. So to be where I am right now I’m very grateful and thankful and it’s just hopefully onwards and upwards from here.

We get a lot of feedback from men, especially the first graders. Mal Meninga has been to our camps and he’s spoken to us. Told us what he’s doing with the men’s team, and he’s bringing it into the women’s as well. So we’re all working together.

At the last Jillaroos Test match we had Greg Inglis come and help us out and mentor us throughout our camp. Then he was there on game day. So it was very big for us to have the men come and support us because we’ve given support to them as well. And we look up to them as players, and to have them around us and wanting us to get better and helping us is really good.

My all-time favourite rugby league player is Andrew Johns. At the moment my favourite is Johnathan Thurston, as I always look up to a halfback, a five-eighth.

Girls tend to learn a bit slower than the guys. But once we get the hang of it it’s pretty well drilled. I’m always thinking a play ahead, so my mind’s always ticking over.

I’m a shift worker, and I work at the wharf at Port Botany where the ships come in. I’m a stevedore. It’s pretty hard to finish all my shifts and then go training and then playing on the weekends and getting time off for rugby league. That’s what we women do in sport, we’re only part-time players. I’m okay with that, as hopefully in the future maybe girls can have a full-time job in sport.

The men are really supportive at work and they’re always excited when I’m playing and they always ask me stuff. So it’s really good to be around great people who just support you and what you love as well.

Watching games is never just watching games for me. I like studying Storm games because obviously they’ve got a good clique of the three men up in front. When I watch football, I take it pretty seriously. It’s not like I just sit at home, eat pizza and enjoy it. I’m scanning every play.

I reffed when I was a bit younger but I’m not a fan of refereeing. I’ll just stick to playing rugby league. I always wanted to have the rugby ball in my hand and I always wanted to kick around at the back of my yard and just play footy with my brother.


• Super Rugby: Western Force v Waratahs

Saturday, 5.45pm (AWST), Nib Stadium, Perth

• AFL: GWS Giants v Sydney Swans

Saturday, 7.25pm (AEST), Spotless Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park

• Cricket: ICC Women’s World Cup – Australia v South Africa

Saturday, 7.30pm (AEST), The County Ground, Taunton, England

• NRL: Gold Coast Titans v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks

Saturday, 7.30pm (AEST), Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast

• Tennis: Wimbledon – women’s and men’s singles finals

Saturday and Sunday, 11pm (AEST), All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club

• Motorsport: F1 British Grand Prix

Sunday, 10pm (AEST), Silverstone, England

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 15, 2017 as "Her own league".

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Richard Cooke is a contributing editor to The Monthly, and the 2018 Mumbrella Publish Award Columnist of the Year.

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