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Mary Konstantopoulos

A community of female bloggers who love the NRL

Mary K is a 20 something lawyer that loves sport.


The ‘Ladies who’ journey began in 2013 with the creation of ‘Ladies who League’ – a website which encourages women to get involved in conversations about rugby league. Since then, ‘Ladies who League’ has become a thriving community and Mary has developed strong relationships with the Parramatta Eels, Canterbury Bulldogs, Wests Tigers and Cronulla Sharks.


In 2015, ‘Ladies who Legspin’ was launched. During BBL05 and WBBL01, Mary worked with the Sydney Thunder to encourage female engagement in cricket.


In 2016, Mary K added ‘Ladies who Leap’ to her empire. Working with the GWS Giants, Mary is looking to learn more about AFL and watch the Giants as they become a powerhouse in Western Sydney.


Mary also hosts a weekly podcast called ‘Ladies who League’ where she is joined by the who’s who in Australian sport. Guests like Yvonne Sampson, Tara Rushton, Jen Browning and Nathan Ross have all been on the Ladies who League podcast. When women get together and talk about sport, the result is magic.


Mary also sits on the NRL’s Women in League sub-Committee, was the NRL SuperCoach Queen in 2015 and is an Advisory Board Member for Western Sydney Women.


On the weekend, you will find Mary on the sidelines cheering on her beloved Parramatta Eels, GWS Giants and Sydney Thunder.

That time I met Blake Austin at the Auckland Nines

That time I met Blake Austin at the Auckland Nines

The Canberra Raiders are a club that I have tremendous respect for.

It is no secret that for me, what happens off the field for a sporting team is just as important as what happens on the field and in my years of supporting rugby league, the Raiders are a club that have taken player behaviour off the field just as seriously as they have their performance on the field.

As a club, the Raiders have always taken a strong stance when it comes to player behaviour. It saw them terminate the contracts of players like Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson. Even though this strong stance ultimately led to other clubs signing these ‘stars’ and ultimately undermining the strong stance that the Raiders had taken, the Raiders stood strong.

For me, last year was a reward for a club that has spent several years looking for a core group of young men who would commit to living in Canberra, would commit to the Raiders and commit long-term to winning the club a Premiership. Last year it all finally clicked and the likes of Jarrod Croker, Joey Leilua, Jordan Rapana and Jack Wighton are players that I know the Raiders will be built around for the next couple of years. 

Of course, central to the success of the Raiders this year will be their halves combination – Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer, whose ability to combine last year was impacted significantly by injury. Both players spent time on the sideline last year due to injury and Blake almost had his finals campaign derailed by a broken arm.

But enough about the past. It’s a new year and the Raiders are ready to take on 2017 with a bang.

After attending training with the team today and having a chat with Blake Austin, I was struck at how young the team for the Nines is. According to Blake, while the pre-season has been difficult, not much focus has been put into the Nines. The result is a young and excited squad with plenty of fresh players ready to have a crack in a competitive pool against the likes of the Roosters, Cowboys and Rabbitohs.

I challenge any person to spend time with Blake Austin and immediately not become a fan of the man who grew up in the Western Suburbs of Sydney and played for 2 other clubs before he found a home at the Raiders.

Last year a couple of stories about him vent viral. Like the story about him spotting a disabled fan waiting for a bus in the middle of a Canberra winter to attend a game. Blake pulled over to the side of the road and asked the young fan if she wanted a lift to the game so that she wouldn’t freeze whilst waiting for a bus. Another young Raiders fan woke up to a message from Blake on Instagram which said ‘hey mate, I’m cleaning out some of last year’s training gear, would you want some?’.

These random acts of kindness should come as no surprise because when you look back over Blake’s past, these sorts of commitments to fans and the community are the norm, not the exception. For example, in 2013 after injury derailed his season, Blake volunteered to coach an under 16’s team from Doonside. This team was nicknamed ‘the uncoachables’ because of a lack of discipline. Blake led this team to a successful Grand Final and coached them the following year as well. 

I know Blake doesn’t do any of this for gratitude or for praise. He does it because he is simply a very decent human being and loves giving back to the sport which has given him so much.

While Blake is in New Zealand with other members of the team, other members of the Raiders squad have stayed home in Canberra to take part in the NRL Community Carnival – a month long celebration which sees each club visit schools and meet kids, spreading important social messages about respect, diversity, healthy lifestyles and inclusion. 

This is a big event on the NRL calendar, but for Blake, giving back to the community is something that the Raiders take very seriously as a club. It’s no surprise to me that Blake has found such a happy home at a club that really seems to align with his values.

Onto the footy for the weekend. The word from Blake is that the players to watch from the Raiders are Nick Cotric (who is the player Blake would least want to share a room with because he doesn’t shut up) and local, Paul Roach.

I’d like to nominate one more player to watch and that’s Scott Sorensen who has joined the Raiders from their feeder club Mounties this year.

While I was waiting to have a chat with Blake, Scott decided to come and say hello and I was super impressed with this young kid who took a couple of minutes to say hello to what he thought was a Raiders fan. After a long pre-season, Scott is really looking forward to getting the opportunity to play some football over the weekend and didn’t disown me when he found out I was a Parramatta fan.

One more thing. While Blake is excited about the Raiders and season 2017, I also took the opportunity to ask him (as a father of two daughters) what it meant to him to see the Australian Jillaroos get the opportunity to represent their country at the highest level in the sport he loves so much. His response? That while he may have 2 daughters, he also has a sister who loves rugby league and 3 or 4 younger cousins who also love the game.

While women in league may not have been something that Blake thought about in the past, now that he has family members who love football he also has an interest in making sure that they have a future in the game. Blake now calls himself a big advocate for women in league and I’m hopeful that perhaps one of his daughters will also get to wear the Raiders colours one day.

Love

Ladies who League xxx

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Why a Sharks win meant so much to me

Why a Sharks win meant so much to me

I should begin this story be absolutely reaffirming that I am and always will be a Parramatta Eels supporter first.

Over the last 24 hours though, you may have seen me out and about in a Cronulla Sharks scarf.  You may have heard me singing ‘up, up Cronulla’.  You may have seen me celebrating as if it was my team that had just won a Grand Final.

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Farewell Parramatta Stadium, thanks for the memories

Farewell Parramatta Stadium, thanks for the memories

This article was first written for and published by The Roar.

People often ask me where my interest in rugby league began.

I grew up in a house with two brothers and a dad – all of them sport crazy. After the Konstantopoulos kids played sport on a Saturday morning, sport would be on the television screen, whether it was cricket, rugby, AFL, the Olympics or horse racing. But the most common sport to grace our television screens was rugby league.

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Introducing Maria Sykes: COO of the Rugby League World Cup 2017

Introducing Maria Sykes: COO of the Rugby League World Cup 2017

At the point in time when this story is published there are just 428 days until the Rugby League World Cup kicks off in 2017.  

14 teams.  28 games.  5 weeks.  Next year's Rugby League World Cup will see the best rugby league players in the world compete to be crowned champions in the pinnacle event in international rugby league.  Next year's Rugby League World Cup will make history with games in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea giving our game the opportunity to shine in front of the most passionate fans in the world.

This week, I thought I would introduce you all to Maria Sykes who is the Chief Operating Officer of the Rugby League World Cup.  I caught up with Maria to hear about her role, the tournament and the exciting role that our Jillaroos will have when the Rugby League World Cup Begins next year. 

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Kieran Foran should not play football in 2017

Kieran Foran should not play football in 2017

This story was first written for and published by The Roar

At approximately 5.15pm on Friday, July 29, 2016, the relationship between the Parramatta Eels and Kieran Foran officially ended.

Following a series of breach notices and weeks of speculation about his state of mind and his commitment to football, Foran was officially released from his contractual commitments at the club, and made a decision to temporarily walk away from rugby league.

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Giving up not an option for the Newcastle Knights

Giving up not an option for the Newcastle Knights

This article was written for and published by The Roar.

There is almost no place in Australia that loves rugby league more than Newcastle does. In Newcastle, rugby league and the Knights are woven into the fabric and history of the town.

Newcastle takes great pride in their ‘old boys’ – men like Andrew Johns, Michael Hagan, Matthew Gidley, Paul Harragon, Allan McMahon and Danny Buderus, who have been some of the greatest servants for the red and blue since the club was formed in 1988.

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The NRL and our committed voice against violence

The NRL and our committed voice against violence

Thugs.  Bullies.  Neanderthals.  Over the course of my time as a rugby league fan, these are words that I have heard used commonly to describe the men that play the game of rugby league.  These are words I want removed from the rugby league vernacular. 

These words are part of what I think is a widespread community view that rugby league players have a particular problem when it comes to attitudes and behaviours towards women.

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An open letter to SBS Zela

An open letter to SBS Zela

Dear SBS Zela

This morning, I watched our Australian women’s football team, the Matildas, defeated in the quarter finals by Brazil in the most heartbreaking of circumstances – a penalty shootout.  In the end, the score was 7-6 and as I watched these brave women sink to their knees and weep, I wept along with them.  For players like Michelle Heyman, Lisa de Vanna, Samantha Kerr, Lydia Williams and Caitlin Foord, this Olympics campaign meant everything and it has truly been a joy to watch this team grow in confidence and in ability this year.

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Women in League: Sonia Lewis

Women in League: Sonia Lewis

Each week as rugby league fans we are lucky enough to watch some of the most talented athletes in our country pull on jerseys for our respective teams and compete in the best rugby league competition in the world. From hard hitting defence, to spectacular tries, to characters on and off the field, our game truly has it all and we are reminded of how talented our athletes are week in, week out.

Women in League round is an opportunity to recognise the role that women play at all levels of the game.  Women’s roles as mums, cheerleaders, volunteers, administrators, fans and NRL employees ensure that we continue to be treated to the best rugby league competition in the world every single week. From women involved in the administration of our game, to women involved at a grassroots level – women and their contribution to rugby league are worth celebrating, not just this week, but every week.

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Meet the girls from Cessnock Public School

Meet the girls from Cessnock Public School

What do you get when you combine 12 schools, the name of a former Jillaroo and a genuine love of rugby league?  The answer is the Rebecca Young Cup - a 7-a-side, full contact rugby league gala day for girls in Year 5 and 6 held at Lakeside Sporting Complex earlier in June.

We caught up with Mat Clarke and his all-girl team from Cessnock Public School to hear about their experience in the tournament.  The girls were the first ever female rugby league team in the 157 year history of the school. 

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Remembering Nicole Fitzsimons

Remembering Nicole Fitzsimons

Today on Ladies who League I want to introduce you to Nicole Fitzsimons, her family and the Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation.

Nicole Fitzsimons was a talented, vivacious, brilliant, passionate young woman who died in a tragic scooter accident in Thailand.

She loved rugby league and her beloved Dragons and had hoped to become a sports journalist.

Before she passed away, Nicole wrote this story about her love of rugby league and we thought it was definitely worth sharing with all of you.

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Quick shots with Sammy Hopkin

Quick shots with Sammy Hopkin

This story was first written for and published by SBS Zela.

Sammy made her debut in the Australian women's touch football team in 2009 and this year was appointed as an NRL State of Mind Ambassador.

Whilst she may be able to find her way to the touchline, we put her to the test this week to see if she could handle our quick shots.

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Cheerleaders: Meet Darcie McDonald

Cheerleaders: Meet Darcie McDonald

This week the National Rugby League celebrates 10 years of the Women in League Round.  It gives the rugby league community the opportunity to pause and reflect on the variety of roles women hold in and around rugby league, of which there are many.

There is one particular group of women though that you simply cannot miss when you attend a rugby league game. They are generally wearing very bright clothing, are on the field from the moment the game starts to the minute the game ends and are extremely good at what they do.

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Meet Rola El Eche: A rugby league player agent

Meet Rola El Eche: A rugby league player agent

You know how the old saying goes, behind every rugby league player there is a good…. player agent.

Long gone are the days when rugby league was semi-professional and our players would turn up to training after a long day at work, have a run on the field, turn up on the weekend and play just for the love of the game.

Today, our game is professional and our players are full-time.  Not only is it absolutely essential that our players are in peak physical condition, but it is also important that a holistic approach is taken to their welfare so that mind, body and spirit are well taken care of.

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Women in League Round is absolutely worth celebrating

Women in League Round is absolutely worth celebrating

This article was first written for and published by The Roar.

Today, the NRL officially launches Women in League Round. This week is an opportunity for us as a game to celebrate the participation, commitment and role that women play at all levels of the rugby league family.

Women in League Round is an opportunity to celebrate, and worth getting excited about, but it can be incredibly divisive.

I’ve heard all the reasons as to why we shouldn’t celebrate Women in League Round. Today, I thought I would share some of those reasons with you and explain why I don’t think they are relevant.

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Five women in footy you need to meet

Five women in footy you need to meet

This article was first written for and published by Women's Agenda.

This week the NRL celebrates 10 years of Harvey Norman Women in League Round.  This round presents an opportunity for everyone to in the rugby league family to celebrate the role that women play in and around the game. 

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Cronulla Sutherland Sharks: A blueprint for success?

Cronulla Sutherland Sharks: A blueprint for success?

This article was written for and published by The Roar.

Everyone loves a fairytale right? And at the moment, there is no greater fairytale in rugby league than that of the Cronulla Sharks.

With their win over the Newcastle Knights on Sunday afternoon in front of 16,882 fans at Southern Cross Group Stadium, the Cronulla Sharks made it a record-breaking 15 wins in a row and are one step closer to the most sought after prize in rugby league – a premiership.

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Ladies who League catches up with Jillaroo Sam Bremner

Ladies who League catches up with Jillaroo Sam Bremner

On Saturday at 3pm, the Women's Interstate Challenge for the Nellie Doherty Cup will be played at CBUS Stadium.  It is going to be a wonderful afternoon of football and will feature as part of a triple-header including the Holden Cup and the game between the Gold Coast Titans and the Eels.

The game will remind you a lot of State of Origin and so will the dominance of the Queensland side who had won the trophy 16 consecutive times until 2014 and then retaining the trophy in a 4-4 draw last year.

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Petero Civoniceva chats with Ladies who League ahead of Origin III

Petero Civoniceva chats with Ladies who League ahead of Origin III

This week before State of Origin, I was lucky enough to catch up with Petero Civoniceva.  Petero is a Queensland State of Origin and Australian international representative.  In 2009 he broke the record for the most international matches for Australia by any forward in history.

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Mary Konstantopoulos: Letter from the editor

Mary Konstantopoulos: Letter from the editor

This letter was first written for and published by SBS Zela.

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