The game has come a long way since Maddie Studdon first left Rugby League at 12 years old, but the NSW Women’s halfback is happy to be witnessing an era of change.
Studdon, along with halves partner Allana Ferguson, controlled the game beautifully as NSW took out an historic Women’s Interstate Challenge. Having never previously defeated Queensland in the event’s 18-year history, the number seven is well aware of the gravity of the 8-4 win on NSW girls.
“I think it did inspire a couple of young girls out there,” Studdon told NSWRL.com.au. “I went to a school the other day and a lot of girls were asking ‘how do we get involved in Rugby League?’
“They saw our game – and they saw how much fun we had out there as well.”
Speaking after the ground-breaking announcement of the Tarsha Gale Nines – an under-18s junior representative competition for young women to run in 2017 – the 21-year-old was excited to see girls afforded opportunities not available in years past.
“We didn’t have that opportunity coming through, so it’s a great thing to see,” Studdon said. “To see that the young girls get this opportunity is great and they don’t have to stop and go to another sport. They can stay in Rugby League, learn and get even better.”
Studdon’s path to representative Rugby League has been a complex one, with an unrelenting hunger to play eventually earning her the no.7 Jillaroos jersey which she has made her own. Having played Rugby League since four years old in mixed junior competitions, Studdon was forced out of the game she loved at 12 years of age, switching to Touch Football via the Eastern Suburbs Roosters club. When Jillaroos and NSW teammate Samantha Bremner started a team with the Helensburgh Tigers, Studdon returned to play open-age Rugby League at just 16 years of age, going on to represent her state and country despite significant injury setbacks.
That journey hit the ultimate highpoint of interstate success last month, but every game of Rugby League is about fun for Studdon; with that in mind, her message to girls is simple:
“Don’t be afraid – for all the young girls, get out there,” Studdon said. “Have a go at Rugby League, it’s all so fun and you meet some good friends.”
With female participation currently the fastest growing segment of Rugby League, more women and girls than ever before are about to find that out for themselves.