[Originally written – April 22, 2018]
New South Wales are the inaugural Super W champions by narrowly defeating Queensland in a thrilling match that led to extra-time on Friday night at Allianz Stadium.
NSW won the match 16-13 at the death through a crucial penalty goal in the 92nd minute to retiring skipper Ashleigh Hewson.
This Super W match was a great spectacle and advertisement for women’s rugby, but it was a late development in the sporting landscape.
It became reality as money talked, as Buildcorp managing director Josephine Sukkar threatened to pull her sponsorship money from Rugby Australia if female players didn’t enter the same professional sporting standards other football codes are providing for their women’s players.
There is still room for improvement, as the women’s teams couldn’t use the change rooms under the main stadium as the men’s team – the Waratahs – were given precedence and they had to walk through from the makeshift media room behind the Eastern grandstand.
With the new stadium there may be multiple change rooms for female and male players. A conversation for another time, but possibly one day gender won’t be an issue and everyone can share?
Once out on the field, the players showed how much winning the Super W title meant to them, as they delivered a professional performance on the field any men’s team would be proud of.
This was the first time in a very long time, due to the resistance put-up by men in power with a rugby background, in not allowing women to play at major stadiums and in professional standard competitions in this country since the new millennium began.
Progress has been slow, but is happening, as what was once ball boys only, is now a genderless domain, as it’s now ball kids who return the rugby balls to their heroes and girls can now dare to dream.
Inclusion has now entered the sporting landscape due to the success of our Olympic champion women’s sevens rugby team and also parents wanting the best for their kids, regardless of gender. Our women’s players are a testament to that.
As for the match, the first opportunity came for NSW, as Queensland winger Lori Cramer dropped a high kick put-up by Chloe Leaupepe. It rolled into touch deep into Queensland territory.
Like a game of chess; it gave NSW great field position and possession and they came away with points from a penalty goal to NSW skipper Ashleigh Hewson.
After a try to Queensland against the play, from an intercept and a further goal to Hewson, NSW were up 6-5 at half-time.
Rob Baumann told his players to be patient during the break, as they were dominating and they just needed to turn that domination into points.
After the resumption of play, Queensland front rower Nareta Masters scored down the blindside, where she palmed off Hewson and made a dash to the line, outpacing the NSW cover defence.
NSW were soon in front again, through a try to replacement front rower Melissa Fatu and Hewson converted for a 13-10 lead.
Queensland kicked their own penalty goal in the 79th minute to even the score 13-all in the 79th minute.
Hewson then stepped-up and stamped the match as her own, firstly through her great covering tackle on fellow Jillaroo Samantha Treherne which made sure the match finished in a draw after the full-time siren sounded.
The former Jillaroo captain, then, kicked a penalty goal after a tense extra 12 minutes of play.
NSW were SUPER W champions and they celebrated on the field.
And during their victory ceremony.
They showed off their spoils to fans, family and friends.
Their celebrations were watched by an appreciative crowd in the stands, including some players, who had won at National Championship level, long before Super W became a reality and also by the large media throng gathered on the field.
A gallant Queensland team had their heads down, as they knew they had lost the match and the title, but they should be SO very proud of their efforts, as both, they and NSW, put on a masterclass on how to play a great game of attacking rugby.
In time, the REDS women will realise this match is a huge win for women’s rugby, and will look back warmly at this occasion, despite the pain of losing such a close match, as the number of journalists and photographers covering this match is significantly higher than what last year’s national championships had.
The match will be published extensively and also watched far and wide on pay television, as society comes into the twenty first century in regards to inclusion of all sportspeople regardless of gender.
Think back to 2007, when there was just one photographer and one writer publishing on Rugby Australia’s website.
As for the Sydney Football Stadium: it has hosted some wonderful sporting moments in both rugby codes and the round ball game over the last 30 years.
It will be demolished in the new year and a new stadium will replace it at great tax payer expense.
Could it simply have been revamped and that money spent on hospitals and schools? Time will tell.
After the match, Allianz is silent outside, although it is lit up in the dark of night, but midnight does approach for the great Sydney Football Stadium, as it’s replaced by a new stadium.
While it’s neighbour, the Sydney Cricket Ground – the old doyen of sports ground, will live on to host more sport and entertainment.
This article was originally an assignment for the editor’s Photo Journalism class.
About the editor: Caroline Layt is a former women’s rugby union and rugby league player and she won four national titles as a women’s rugby player representing Sydney from 2004-08, as well as representing NSW in women’s rugby league 2007-08.