Karyn Murphy Cup helps grow girls game

Girls from regions as spread out as Thursday Island to the north and Keebra to the south will assemble at Redcliffe’s Dolphin Stadium tomorrow (Wednesday, August 29) to take part in a showcase of schoolgirls rugby league with the staging of this year’s Karyn Murphy Cup finals.

The diversity of the finals participants highlights the continuing growth of female participation in rugby league – a result in many ways of the improved pathways that have been made available for girls to get involved in the game.

Read --> Thursday Island's Tagai State College ready to take on Karyn Murphy Cup finals

Opportunities like the Karyn Murphy Cup have given schoolgirls the chance to try their hand at league, maybe for the first time, and has seen a massive rise in schools taking part in these competitions.

One region in particular whose participation rates of schoolgirl teams have gone through the roof is the Darling Downs – with 30 schools competing in the second annual Karyn Murphy Cup in 2018, compared to 13 last season.

Our Lady of Lourdes in Toowoomba are one of the 17 new teams from the Darling Downs region who’ve taken full advantage of the schools-based competition to encourage their girls to give rugby league a go.

“They love it!” said Rachel Salisbury, coach of Our Lady of Lourdes Year 5 / 6 team, who will play in the Karyn Murphy Cup tri-series finals on Wednesday.

“I think the difficult thing is the girls can only play with the boys until they’re 12 and then previously there’s been nothing for them; but now we’ve got all these pathways so girls can continue playing,” she said.

“There’s a lot of girls out there that really suit rugby league, and maybe they’re not quick and nimble on the touch (football) field or great netball players, but league really suits them.

“Even just giving these kids another avenue, they love it and love the contact.”

Our Lady of Lourdes player Jessica Watt with Australia, Queensland and Broncos representative player Ali Brigginshaw. 
Main Image: Our Lady of Lourdes team with Rachel Salisbury. Submitted Images
Our Lady of Lourdes player Jessica Watt with Australia, Queensland and Broncos representative player Ali Brigginshaw. Main Image: Our Lady of Lourdes team with Rachel Salisbury. Submitted Images

With the help of people like Salisbury, Jackie Stephson from the Toowoomba Rugby League (TRL) and other schools; the Darling Downs region want to continue to open pathways for girls by providing more local competitions in and out of school.

“We’ve now got a school competition for the 12-year-old girls to play each Friday and the TRL have a competition on Friday nights (starting this year) and they’ve played about 12 weeks in total,” Salisbury said.

“What’s really helped is the schools and the TRL club people have come together and we’ve all worked hard for a common goal, and it means there’s more girls playing league.

“Some of them would give the boys a run for their money, it’s been great!”

One of many key contributors to the game in her area; Salisbury has seen a number of improvements in the opportunities being provided to girls to and play the game.

The focus in recent years has been to encourage girls and their parents to get involved and to show how it is a game for everyone – no matter their background – sporting or otherwise – or their ability.

“In the past, we really had to go out and encourage them to play, but its changed in the last six years or so because now more girls know about it,” Salisbury said.

“I’ve even had a few mums from current Grade 4’s saying that their kids can’t wait until they’re the right age to come and play in the Karyn Murphy Cup.

“I know girls from my team and other schools that’ve played in the (Karyn Murphy) Cup want to keep playing because they had a go at it and realised just how much they enjoyed it.”

The finals will be played tomorrow at Recliffe’s Dolphin Stadium with the first games kicking off at 9am.

Tagai State College will contest the Year 11 / 12 finals in 2018. Photo: submitted
Tagai State College will contest the Year 11 / 12 finals in 2018. Photo: submitted

About the Karyn Murphy Cup

The statewide, nine-a-side competition was first introduced last year with more than 170 schoolgirls teams across four age divisions taking part in the inaugural Karyn Murphy Cup.

This year it has only gotten bigger, with more than 230 teams registering to be a part of this wonderful competition which goes to show just how many girls want to get involved in rugby league.

Winners from each school sporting region played-off earlier this month to see which three teams from each age division would reach the Queensland final at Redcliffe.

About Karyn Murphy

The Cup itself is named after an icon of women’s rugby league and a major factor in the continued growth of female participation.

Karyn Murphy played in the inaugural Interstate Challenge game against New South Wales in 1999 and was a part of Queensland’s 16 consecutive win dominance over NSW.

She captained the Australian Jillaroos in 2013 to claim their first ever Rugby League World Cup trophy.

Earlier this year, Murphy was also an assistant coach for Queensland in the maiden Holden Women’s State of Origin.

A true great of the game, Murphy continues to inspire female participation as it’s the fastest growing area of rugby league today.