Georgia Hale will be a key figure for the Kiwi Ferns as they look to chalk up back-to-back Anzac Test wins over the Jillaroos in Canberra on Friday night. The brilliant young five-eighth was named player of the match after their stunning 26-16 win in Newcastle last year, and has rapidly become the face of women’s rugby league in New Zealand. Hale is also an NRL ambassador and is employed as a community ambassador by the Warriors. WILL EVANS caught with Hale in Dunedin last month while she was on the road with the club.
WE: Is your role with the Warriors fulltime?
GH: Yes, it is. My week is basically Monday to Friday, and if we have game days or we’re following the team around New Zealand I’m away with them, getting into schools and being a face for the community.
We do a lot of our work in Auckland, but if the boys are (in other areas) we definitely tag along, just to get into a different area and see kids that probably wouldn’t get that sort of experience often.
What’s your working background prior to linking up with the club?
I worked with kids with special needs, so I was kind of in that teaching environment. I’m still young and still learning, but I really enjoy working with kids and seeing what we give them and how rewarding it is for them.
Are the Kiwi Ferns generally finding they’re starting to get more opportunities likes yours to work in rugby league outside of playing?
Yes, definitely. I think people are starting to see the importance of the women’s game, which helps lift our profiles, and (jobs) like this – being a face to young girls or whatever it may be – that kind of thing is starting to pop up. We love footy and we love spreading good messages, so to combine them both together is awesome.
It must be satisfying to be at the forefront of the massive growth of women’s rugby league in New Zealand recently?
It is, I actually feel really, really honoured to be the one that is kind of the face of it all. I’m just waiting for more girls to jump on the bandwagon and be a part of it. It’s really rewarding, being able to play footy but also to give back to the community, that’s just win-win for me.
Are you getting a lot of good feedback with people starting to realise that the women’s game is high-quality? The Ferns-Jillaroos Anzac Test last year was far more entertaining than the Kiwis-Kangaroos…
Yes we are, and what we do off the field I think also shows on the field. It’s just awesome that we’re having opportunities like (double-headers with) the men’s Tests, or being part of the Nines weekend because those experiences are priceless, the fact that our team can be involved. We’ve got some talented girls that have so much to showcase, and the fact we’re getting people’s bums on seats at games is pretty neat. People want to watch our games, which is just amazing.
Confirmation Georgia Hale is player of the match for Kiwi Ferns. Well deserved. Two great try assists #RoosKiwis
— Chris Kennedy (@CKennedy80) May 6, 2016
The Ferns surrendered the Nines crown for the first time this year – is there a score to settle in the Anzac Test?
Yeah, a little bit. The Nines didn’t go as planned, we were a little bit disappointed with how we finished, but I guess you’ve got to be at the bottom to really appreciate what it’s like at the top. So we’ve got a bit of work to do, but I think we’d rather have that (setback) at the start of the year leading into the World Cup so we’ll be better prepared.
The Australian women’s players are getting a lot of opportunities, being signed up by clubs and getting media roles – is that the sort of thing you’d like to see happen in New Zealand?
Absolutely, I’d love to see it happen here. I think it’s only a matter of time. Over in Aussie they’ve got a lot of resources, a lot of financial support backing them. It’s quite hard watching the growth of their game and how much footy their girls are getting, but I hope that New Zealand isn’t too far behind them and we can catch up on that front.
— KiwiLeagueCentral (@KiwiLeague) March 1, 2016