Former Australian Jillaroo Katrina Fanning is eager to raise the participation of Indigenous people across all levels of the game after being appointed the new Chair of the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council.
Fanning had been a member of the board since 2012 and was selected last week to take over as chair after Linda Burney stepped down due to her commitments as a federal member of parliament.
Fanning, who played 26 Test matches for Australia across her 14-year career, said she wanted to continue to build on the work the NRL was doing in developing stronger pathways, opportunities and recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people involved in the game.
“Rugby league has done a great job of having Indigenous people profiled in every aspect of the game and within my new role I want to further that commitment to participation at all levels of our code,” Fanning said.
“I’m keen to be involved with an organisation that has such a commitment to making a difference, it’s not just about getting more kids to play the sport – it’s about making a difference in people’s lives.”
Fanning said Burney, who served as the chairwoman for six years, was the perfect mentor for the role.
“What a wonderful role model and person to learn from,” Fanning said.
“Her patience in certain situations and the way she handled herself and helped progress Indigenous issues in rugby league was an invaluable learning experience.
“It’s not just enough to know about what happens on the field, but she was a really good mentor in everything it takes off the field for change to happen.”
Former NSW captain and coach Laurie Daley has also accepted a position as a member of the council.
Fanning said having former players step into those roles demonstrated the many opportunities that are available to Indigenous men and women in the game away from the football field.
“We’ve got a group of people who cover lots of different components of what makes up the game and that means we have a really comprehensive view of what the game does and can do for people – from people who’ve experienced it and not just observed it,” Fanning said.
“The key to participation at all levels is our kids being able to see Indigenous people not only on the field but to see them as coaches, game developers and board members.
“They see that there’s a place for us throughout the game and gives confidence to the kids so they can trust that this is a game where they’re going to be respected and valued and appreciated for what they bring to it.”