The Men of League Foundation celebrates the NRL’s Women In League Round by saluting the contribution of the many women in its executive team, membership, committees and volunteer base. After our initial profile on Penrith Committee volunteer, Lucy Richards, we now highlight Helen Wood Grant, national board director and Deputy Chair of the Foundation.
How did you become involved with the Men of League Foundation?
I had known of the organisation’s work since its inception and began attending functions in 2011. It doesn’t take long to realise the immense impact of the Foundation and the ever-increasing need that it addresses in the rugby league family. It’s a really unique Foundation world-wide with its clear focus on one sporting code and on the most necessitous within it. Ron Coote, co-founder and our Chairman for the first 15 years, was a hugely impressive advocate for the Foundation and truly inspirational. I saw the legion of volunteers really rolling their sleeves up and saw the huge pipeline of need ahead, so it was a pretty easy decision to join the cause.
How long have you been a Board Member of the Men of League Foundation?
I worked in an advisory role to Ron initially and three years ago I was invited onto the national board, becoming Deputy Chair this year.
What have been the biggest changes that the Board has made to progress the Foundation?
We felt we needed to offer professionalism, stability, speedy response times and the highest standards of good governance to our major supporters, our members and committees and most of all to our recipients. We also wanted to make it ever clearer to the rugby league family and wider community that our charter 15 years on from inception is to care for the men, women and children of this great sport – we are family centric not gender specific and focus on the neediest among us. Our work is a massive privilege as we are able to offer life-changing help to a lot of brave people.
What does the Men of League Foundation supporting women in the rugby league community mean to you?
Of course it means so much that the Foundation, like all dynamic and contemporaneous organisations, acknowledges the place of women – in the game and indeed in our homes, business lives and communities – is central to community health and mutual respect. We find that if a woman in a family is unwell and unable to play her part, the entire family suffers and there are poor outcomes for children. So if you help the mother, you help the entire family.
What role do you see women playing in continuing the growth of the Foundation?
Without question we are seeking to increasingly attract women as board members, Foundation members and as committee members. The emergence of women as elite players, match officials, board members, executives and volunteers is a reflection of a wider view that it is pretty foolish to ignore the contribution of 50% of the population. We’re all stronger for working together and our door is wide open to female participation.
Why would you encourage more women to become involved with the Men of League Foundation?
Because women are already huge contributors to rugby league and this is a way to further exert their influence and to create confidence that by being involved with the Foundation they are doing important work to support the physical, emotional and social needs of their rugby league family
Women are givers and giving is central to driving social change. So often we feel frustrated and powerless in the face of injustice and the personal crises of others but it’s not always clear how we can help. By women simply becoming a financial member they are actively helping. By becoming a committee member they then add community outreach and wellbeing activities to that support. So much to do and there’s a role for us all.