The Leading Women At The ARL Table

Press Release – Auckland Rugby League

They’re the four women helping shape the future of the Auckland Rugby League.

Between them ARL Board Members Evelyn Brooker, Lynne Cameron and Karen Gibbons – along with ARL kaumatua kuia (elder) Cathy Friend QSM – boast decades of experience in rugby league administration and leadership.

Friend is the first person in the history of the organisation to be appointed to her position, becoming the kaumatua kuia in 2017 following more than 60 years of service to the local game, 25 of which were spent on the ARL Board.

“The honour is something that I will treasure for the rest of my life,” Friend said.

“I love rugby league and I’ve always wanted to do what I could to help.

“I was the only woman on the Board at one stage early on, but things are very different now.”

Elected director Lynne Cameron, who joined the Board in 2017, said it’s thanks in part to the efforts of trailblazers like Friend and Brooker that today’s Board boasts the diversity it does.

“The women I saw involved in rugby league when I was growing up were wives and girlfriends, or they were running the tuck shop. I didn’t see women in leadership positions at all,” Cameron said.

“Now when I get to sit at a table and hear the stories and experiences that Evelyn and whaea Cathy have been part of over the years, I am very aware that I’m there because of the women that have gone before me.

“I think that it was an amazing progressive move to honour Cathy in that way and to encourage her to continue to participate and have a prominent role in discussions about the game.”

An ARL Board Member for the past 16 years, Brooker has since been made a Life Member of the organisation and paid tribute to the clubs for consistently electing female representation to the Board.

“Our clubs have done a great job with that, the three of us on there are due to the progressive approach of our clubs,” Brooker said.

“When I first started joining committees at clubs you’d find only one or two females on them and there were always more men on the committee with you.

“But when I joined the ARL Board there were three other females on with me even back then.”

Gibbons was elected to the ARL Board in 2018 after 10 years as the chair of the Hibiscus Coast Raiders.

She remains the longest serving chair at the club, while previously she was also a director of Touch North Harbour.

Gibbons pointed to the significant female influence at ARL club level now, in addition to the gender diversity that exists on the ARL Board.

“I’ve seen more women come on as chairs at club level. When I took it on at the Hibiscus Coast I think I was the only one,” Gibbons said.

“It’s not a male domain as it was in previous times.”

At club level this year Papatoetoe (Carla Makiha), Manukau (Nesha Tuki), Mt Wellington (Daphne Dawson), Waiuku (Grace van den Brink), Northcote (Liz Lees), New Lynn (Barbara Murphy), Marist (Victoria Malone) and Pukekohe (Tammy Potini) all have female leaders, while at Mangere East Tasha Tasmania serves as the general manager and handles the day-to-day running of the club.

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