Scan the team lists for the opening round of the Harvey Norman Tarsha Gale competition and surnames just spring out at you – Taaffe, Koloamatangi, Widders, Carr, Prince.
And they are just from the one club, the South Sydney Rabbitohs, who are making their return to Tarsha Gale in 2022 after a two-year absence.
Will Hopoate’s sister Pani is with the North Sydney Bears, while Harmony Crichton – the sister of Stephen and Christian – will play in the centre for the Panthers taking on the Wests Tigers at Kirkham Oval, Camden, on Saturday 5 February.
The growth of women’s Rugby League, or more particularly, the pathways now set in place, mean it’s no longer just father-son combos in the sport like the Lang, Sironen, Cleary, Waddell, Britt, and Morris clans.
Now Dean Widders can see his daughter Yilara, and his niece Janine Widders, play.
True Blue Jim Dymock watched his daughter Tegan play for the Sharks in Tarsha Gale in 2021 and make the Harvey Norman U19s Women’s Origin team.
“It’s probably only been the last five years or so that they’ve had an opportunity like they’ve currently got now to play through to Tarsha Gale, the Harvey Norman comp, and into the NRLW, which are all elite competitions,” Rabbitohs coach Karen Stuart said.
Yilara Widders has been named in the second row for the Rabbitohs round one clash with the Bulldogs at Belmore Oval on Saturday 5 February. Blake Taaffe’s cousin, Kasey, will be wearing the No.9 jersey.
Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues forward Keaon Koloamatangi’s sister Fifita, winger Josh Addo-Carr’s niece Darci Carr, along with former Sharks and Eels winger Ronald Prince’s daughter Lailah, are in the extended South Sydney squad.
Stuart said it was refreshing to see women progress their love of league.
“For these kids now in the Tarsha Gale age group, this is an opportunity they’ve not had before,” she said. “Some of them have grown up in league families, whether it’s their siblings, uncles or their dads, so they’ve felt the passion for the game.
“They’ve wanted to play footy and now they can. I wish I was born 20 years later.”
Some pressure and expectation comes with well-known surnames but Stuart says it’s no deterrent.
“They don’t talk about it. And we certainly don’t make a point of it either as it’s important they are allowed to have their own identity,” she said.
“The link to their family is certainly important but we don’t use that as a platform for them. We want them to create their own platform rather than relying on their famous siblings and relatives.”
Stuart doesn’t see any problems arising from unwanted attention or even back-chat in matches.
“Potentially that might happen but for some of these players’ dads or uncles, the current generation won’t know about them, what they did, watched them play, or even care,” she said.
“Certainly, Blake Taaffe is current and known but we are trying to create that family culture at our club, so all the girls talk very proudly of not just their sibling but their own heritage and culture.”
And daughters or sisters aren’t expected to play the same position as their dads or brothers.
“My job is to look at what each player has and what position best suits them and best suits the team,” Stuart said.
“Casey (Taaffe) will most likely be our hooker all year and her brother is a fullback. But Fifita (Koloamatangi) is a prop like her brother and Yilara (Widders) is a backrower like her dad.
“But they have their own capabilities, body shape and type, and aptitude towards the game. That is what puts each girl in a certain position – nothing else.”