Shontelle Stowers (left) representing Sydney Roosters in the WNRL. Image: NRL Imagery.
The diversity of the Foundation’s growth in the past 18 months has been highlighted by the addition of Australian rugby union legend and part of the new breed of the Women’s National Rugby League competition Shontelle Stowers to the national wellbeing committee.
The New Zealand-born Stowers moved to Sydney when she was 21 and soon committed to playing for the Warringah Rats women’s rugby side. She had to sit out three years before gaining qualification to represent her adopted nation in the 15-a-side and seven-a-side forms of the game. She also captained Samoa in last year’s Commonwealth Championships.
In 2018 Stowers was part of the first intake of players to participate in the inaugural WNRL competition, playing for Sydney Roosters. The year before she was introduced to the league via the Sharks.
An executive assistant by career, Shontelle took the opportunity to study elite athlete wellbeing as part of a program provided by the NRL. While undergoing a qualification course, she came across the Foundation’s national wellbeing manager Jessica Macartney, who was very impressed with the 32-year-old’s passion for playing a role in sport’s wellbeing space.
“I met Shontelle through the elite athlete wellbeing qualification that she was completing and was impressed with her passion for helping the rugby league community and making a difference,” Macartney said. “I later asked if she’d be interested in joining the committee. She also brings more diversity to our ranks being the second female (after me) on the committee and, with a Pasifika heritage, she provides some strong cultural knowledge to help us to better support the Polynesian community members in our care.
“And, as an elite athlete, she can help inform the committee about the unique challenges that past NRL players face in their careers so that we can better support them in their retirement.”
With former Canberra Raiders skipper Alan Tongue forced to stand down from the national wellbeing committee because of work commitments, Stowers was seen as the perfect replacement and jumped at the opportunity.
“It’s an area I am very passionate about and feel I will be able to add value from a different perspective,” Stowers said. “The profile of women’s rugby league grown immensely in the past year or so and, as a current player, I feel I can be a voice and add many aspects of diversity to the committee.
“I’ve attended two meetings and it has quickly hit home how much of an impact the Foundation makes in the community. “It’s been an eye opener to learn the stories behind why people need grants or other assistance and that we are truly dealing with and providing crucial support to children, wives, whole families and not just footballers. So, it’s great to be one of the young women making a contribution in this area.”
The national wellbeing committee meets once every two months. It is chaired by the Foundation’s national board member Geoff Thoroughgood, with Jessica Macartney the secretary.
Other members are CEO Stephen Lowndes, Northern Sydney wellbeing officer Ken Vessey, former NRL referee Greg McCallum, NSW state manager Bruce Walker, Queensland wellbeing manager Mark Bunting and Stowers.
The role of the committee is to support the Foundation’s wellbeing staff to assess grant applications and set the vision for wellbeing operations within the organisation.