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International Women’s Day: Jodie Cunningham Steel Woman on Breaking Bias in Her Rugby Career | News about rugby league


Jodie Cunningham had a stellar 2021 season seeing her St Helens captain win an unprecedented domestic treble, but the England international’s journey to the top saw her have to Overcome cynicism and sexism

Last Updated: 08/03/22 12:14 am

Jodie Cunningham has become one of the stars of the female Super League

Jodie Cunningham has become one of the stars of the female Super League

Jodie Cunningham spends every day inspiring the next generation of female rugby players, but the England international has long been a role model for women and girls in the sport before becoming a RFL’s national director of women and girls development.

Cunningham is one of the biggest icons of the Betfred Women’s Super League, a profile that has been raised even further after overtaking St Helens to claim the unprecedented domestic title in 2021, not to mention becoming a grandmaster. porcelain for this year postponed Rugby World Cup.

But although the 31-year-old has risen to the top of her sport since childhood playing at Warrington and becoming an inspirational figure for many, it has not been an easy road. With all the effort she put in, Cunningham had to overcome cynicism and sexism, though it only made her more determined.

“I feel like from a little girl and really a little rugby league, I always have to shrug off the women’s and women’s rugby league,” Cunningham said. Sports sky.

“I’ve always fought to prove how good it is, to prove women and girls can play rugby, how strong we are and it’s worth the investment and worth watching.

“So every time someone makes a comment like that, every time someone says ‘is it football related?’ or every time someone says ‘girls can’t handle’, ‘are you hurt?’, ‘do you take a bath together?’ – just the most absurd questions ever asked of a male athlete – for me, I just thought ‘every time you do, I’m going to prove this sport is great’ like, I’m going to demonstrate the power of women in this ongoing game and I’m going to take myself to the highest level’.

“I feel so lucky, the last few years we’ve been at the highest level and people are telling me about the excellence of that try in the Finals, how impressed they are with St Helens and can they come back to being like this? Five. They’re talking about rugby and, for me, that shows a change in momentum.”

England and Steel Lady 2021 international Jodie Cunningham breaks through from the inside of her half for a great try in St Helens' Women's Super League Final win over Leeds Rhinos

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England and Steel Lady 2021 international Jodie Cunningham breaks through from the inside of her half for a great try in St Helens’ Women’s Super League Final win over Leeds Rhinos

England and Steel Lady 2021 international Jodie Cunningham breaks through from the inside of her half for a great try in St Helens’ Women’s Super League Final win over Leeds Rhinos

Cunningham also had to overcome more subtle forms of discrimination, finding that her sporting ambitions were dismissed by some as more than just a hobby as the Women’s Super League players remained unpaid. money to play.

However, no one should be in doubt. The reigning Iron Woman and her club and international teammates are very elite athletes, with the regular hours of practice they spend perfecting their skills and reaching the peak of their fitness. around their daily work.

“I think for me, a lot of things are pretty sophisticated,” Cunningham said. “It doesn’t have to be in your face. Previous workplaces where I told them about rugby and my requirements, and that I might need a break to play in the World Cup. and it is described as a hobby.

“The time and everything I’ve done to get where I am in my sport, calling it a hobby is disrespectful to me. Just because we don’t get paid to play the sport, no take away from what women in the game do at the highest level.

“Every time someone says ‘is it football related?’ or every time someone says ‘girls can’t handle’, ‘are you hurt?’, ‘do you take a bath together?’ … I just thought ‘every time you do that I’m going to prove how great this sport is, I’m going to prove how strong the women in this game are and I’m going to level myself up. the highest ‘.”

Jodie Cunningham

“So those little things for me that you have to accept and try to understand and educate people to understand that it’s unacceptable to say it’s a hobby for someone at the highest level of a subject. sport.”

But despite those experiences, Cunningham believes there are plenty of signs of progress for women and girls when it comes to rugby, and this year’s International Women’s Day offers another opportunity to convey those ideas. that message.

This year’s theme for ‘Break The Bias’ is one that resonates particularly with her, as well as in life off the football field and on it.

“I think it means something different to everyone, and to me, ‘Break The Bias’ is about moving momentum from being marginalized and people questioning a woman’s ability in all different ways to succeed. we feel empowered and respected for what we do and what we bring to the table,” Cunningham said.

“It could be on the football field, it could be in the office – it doesn’t matter where it is, but it’s the change of women believing in themselves and the men around us believing in us too. .

“I really feel like we’re finding that change right now, and days like International Women’s Day really bring light to that and make people question and think about it. How far will it go?”





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