Long before Women in League Round became an event, people like Amanda King were doing their bit for the game in all sorts of roles and at all different levels.
Back in the day the partner of a country rugby league player, then the mum of an aspiring young footballer, one who would grow into an NRL player, and now a member of the Sharks Welfare and Education staff, King certainly qualifies as a ‘woman in league’.
She’s been involved for more years than she probably cares to remember, and it’s been quite a journey, one King talks of with a mixture of pride, satisfaction and an ambition to continue to make a significant contribution to the game and to the players and people involved in it.
The Sharks Women’s team manager in 2017, King’s role at the Sharks evolved, developed and grew, to where she is now a vital member of the clubs welfare team.
Looking after the under 16’s Harold Mathews Cup team, the girls Tarsha Gale and Sharks Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership squads, as well as the boys at the Newtown Jets, King’s duties are varied and far reaching.
On the week where the game celebrates the contribution of women in the game, King enjoys what she does and is pleased females are being accepted in key positions across the professional game.
“More and more people are appreciative and understanding what women can bring into an all-men environment,” King said. “It does get draining, but most of the time it is very rewarding.”
At the Sharks Amanda works alongside former NRL players Jordan Atkins and Ben Ross in Education and Wellbeing and is firm in the belief the club has struck on almost the perfect mix of talents and personalities to assist the players in this critical area of NRL club operations.
“I think it’s terrific here we’ve got three people in the wellbeing space who are all completely different. Different how we approach things,” she explained. “In terms of what we can offer every player, I think we’ve got it all covered.”
While King has the certificates and training to allow her to work in an NRL club environment, possibly more important are skills which have been learnt through a lifetime emmersing herself in grassroots footy and as the mum of an elite player who would experience the highs and lows of an NRL career.
King was for a time another of those had working ‘women in league’, women vital but often unheralded and sometimes unappreciated at local clubs all around the country.
It all began for her as the partner of a country rugby league captain coach, the family stationed in places like Wagga, Queanbeyan and Moruya on the NSW South Coast.
Then her four-year-old son gets the bug, wants to pull on the boots, and King quickly became one of those willing helpers every junior league club is ready to embrace.
“You start off washing the jerseys, then team manager, canteen, then you join the committee,” King remembered.
From there her son Cameron, who would go on to play almost 50 NRL games at the Dragons, Cowboys and Eels, despite enduring a wretched run with injury, began to show some ability.
Mum, teenage son and daughter Katelyn shifted to Sydney, Cameron attending Endeavour High, with King’s women in league journey taking another twist.
As the mother of an emerging talent King would become the support person, proverbial bus driver, the nutritionist as a string of her son’s teammates often visited their home at meal time, all the while building up a resume of sorts which highlihted her the on-the-job training and the innate ability to help young men and women achieve their goals.
“I feel like I’d been doing it unofficially my whole life,” she says of working in player welfare. “Cam’s had a whole range of issues, a chequered career. He was touted as one of the next big things, and there is a lot of pressure when those opportunities slip away, almost every time he got an opportunity, he wasn’t able to take it.
“A lot of dark times and as a family you go through that with them. So that helps me understand for the players now that I work with, how they feel and the challenges they face.
“All of my experiences I think have helped me fit into this role. It’s given me all the background to be in the wellbeing space in terms of the basics in real life situations,” King added.
That has the boys covered, however with the emergence of women playing rugby league at an elite level, King is happy to ride that wave and to do her bit in also steering them in the right direction when and wherever she can.
“Also having a daughter, I know how girls work and think, so that helps as well.”
In addition to her working with the Sharks girls, King travelled to the Gold Coast with the NSW Women’s City team for the National Championships, then went into camp with the NSW Women’s Origin squad ahead of their annual game against Queensland, this year played before a huge crowd at North Sydney Oval.
The representative team interactions were a couple more rugby league experiences she embraced and enjoyed.
“To be around a whole team of professional athletes, those two experiences were great,” King said.
And that’s not forgetting the Newtown Jets, the Sharks NSWRL feeder club in the Canterbury Cup. Of all her duties, the Jets are possibly the favourite part of King’s winter weekends.
“They accepted me, Greg Matterson the coach said at the start of the year ‘do what you’ve got to do’ and they (the Jets) are such a warm, caring club from the top all the way down. Newtown are great,” she added.
While finally on the topic of Women in League and the NRL’s attempt to celebrate with a dedicated weekend of matches, many might think King hasn’t got the time in her busy schedule to reflect on its significance or to think too much about it. To the contrary, it is something she believes the whole of the rugby league community needs to embrace.
“It’s an important round. It’s a great way to celebrate women. Any way you acknowledge people’s support is good and it’s an opportunity to do that,” she said.
“As a mother, my son tells me he loves and appreciates me, you don’t look for it, (but) it makes you feel better about what you do. Same when the game in general celebrates you.
“You’d like to hope when you have a Women in League round it gives local clubs the opportunity to also thank their workers and to bring them into the spotlight and to acknowledge them,” King expressed.
King isn’t in the spotlight, like Jess Ciccia in the club's media department, Kylie Lucas and Natalie Thurkettle in commercial, Daniella Collins looking after merchandise, Kathy Walton helping to manage stadium operations, Jess Spendlove the team dietician, or Mary Georgas who keeps the boys well fed during a training week, but they are some of the many women having an influence on rugby league in making it a better place for those in and around the game.