EQUALITY: Sarah Ryan is trying to strengthen grassroots rugby league for girls in regional communities.
EQUALITY: Sarah Ryan is trying to strengthen grassroots rugby league for girls in regional communities. Meg Bolton

Sarah gives girls the opportunities she never had

WHEN Sarah Ryan was a little girl, all she wanted to do was play rugby league.

But with no girls' team or league available, playing the sport she loved wasn't even an option.

Ms Ryan couldn't fulfil her own sporting dreams, but for the past two years she has helped the young women of today fulfil theirs.

The Lockyer District High School teacher said since 2017 she has watched the girls' league go from strength to strength.

"Two years ago we started with six girls, a coach, a manager and a dream,” MsRyan said.

But this year, she coaches three girls' rugby league teams at the high school each week.

She said giving girls opportunities to play rugby league not only benefited their health and fitness, but also their schooling.

"One girl came up to me and said, 'Miss, I hated school until I started rugby league and now I love it',” Ms Ryan said.

"That girl is now a student leader.”

Ms Ryan said she wished someone had given her the opportunity when she was younger. But rather than living in the past, Ms Ryan is paving the way for the younger generation.

"I think girls should have the opportunity to play a sport that they're passionate in without being held back by gender,” she said.

Ms Ryan is also creating opportunities for girls to pursue the sport outside of school through the Gatton Hawks Rugby League Club, where she is the girls' coordinator.

Ms Ryan hopes to fill at least three girls' teams at the Hawks ahead of the upcoming season.

She urged girls from across the Lockyer Valley to get involved in the game.

"From their first tackle you can see the change on their faces,” Ms Ryan said.

"When you see them run off after their first game, their whole face is lit up.

"They love it and they never look back.”

Ms Ryan hopes to play a role in developing girls' grassroots football so it filters through to the elite level.

She said women's rugby league had come a long way but she hoped one day female football would be regarded as highly as the men's league.