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The unearthed story of Maggie Moloney — a rugby league star from 100 years ago


Maggie Moloney just isn’t a family identify right this moment, however 101 years in the past she was. 

Australia’s first feminine rugby league star, at solely 15 years of age, was described because the ‘feminine Dally Messenger’ when she was the centre of certainly one of Australia’s greatest information tales of 1921. 

In entrance of 30,000 individuals on the Sydney Showground {the teenager} from Redfern scored 4 tries because the Metropolitan Blues beat the Sydney Reds 21-11 on the earth’s first public girls’s rugby league match. 

Her profession was short-lived as the ladies’s competitors confronted a degree of administrative skulduggery confronted by many ladies who wished to play sport in the identical means as their male counterparts. 

The lads’s groups on the time have been to play the curtain raiser to the ladies’s match however have been prevented from doing so by NSW Rugby League (NSWRL) officers, who had initially voted to help the match and a girls’s competitors.

The ban was defied by the best rugby league participant of the time, Dally Messenger, who took the chance to launch his personal rugby league ball at half-time within the girls’s contest.

A mural of a female football player
Maggie Moloney was a pioneer of ladies’s rugby league in Australia. (Provided)

Entrance web page headlines on the time have been concerning the partition of Eire, land disputes between China and Japan, and naval disarmament talks between Pacific nations.

However amongst the massive geo-political tales have been reviews of the ladies’s rugby league sport, though Maggie’s household identify was misspelled in all of them.

The Solar led with ‘Lady Soccer Star – Solely 15 Years Previous, Modest Maggie Maloney’.

The Sunday Occasions story was headlined, ‘Girls at Soccer, Speedy Miss Maloney’.

The Every day Telegraph went with, ‘Maggie’s Triumph, The Rugby Lady, an Enticing Recreation’.

From an outdated black and white photograph Moloney’s story has been introduced again to life by avenue artist Sharon Billinge and Redfern Rugby League historian Katherine Haines.

The portray on the again wall of Redfern’s St Vincent de Paul Neighborhood Assist Centre looms over the laneway the place Moloney practised kicking with different neighbourhood youngsters, and her brother Bryan who performed for the Rabbitohs.

The laneway additionally has a transparent view to her household dwelling.

A mural celebrating a historic womens rugby league match
A mural celebrating the historic match has been painted in Redfern.(Provided )

“She performed earlier than 30,000 individuals on the agricultural showgrounds,” Haines advised The Ticket.

“She actually stood out … she was simply cherished by the crowds as a result of she was such an thrilling participant.”

The showgrounds then have been subsequent door to the SCG the place Fox Studios now stands. The match was promoted by the Mick Simmons sports activities retailer and billed as ‘The Occasion of the Yr’.

In an try to discourage crowds from watching the ladies’s sport, the NSWRL staged its personal exhibition match subsequent door with a gaggle of faculty women who’d by no means performed the sport. It drew solely round 2,000 spectators.

They might have heard the chanting of ‘Maggie, Maggie’ blowing downwind from the a lot greater crowd who had all paid to see the sport performed by groups that had been coaching each Friday afternoon since mid-June.

Males weren’t allowed to look at coaching, however for a small charge different girls may. Two law enforcement officials guarded the coaching floor the place as much as 100 girls took half within the weekly ball expertise and kicking apply. A portion of the gate takings on sport day was paid to the gamers.

Artist Sharon Billinge mentioned the response to the mural had been “wonderful”.

A mural of a rugby league ball
Road artist Sharon Billinge has created a tribute to the historic second.(Provided)

“Maggie’s granddaughter got here and he or she was in tears when she noticed it, which was simply beautiful,” she mentioned. 

“It is clearly a narrative piece … so individuals strolling previous wish to ask concerning the story, they’ve seemed her up on-line they usually actually connect with her as a result of she lived simply 50 metres away.”

With solely a scratchy outdated photograph to color from, Billinge described the problem as “very difficult”.

“As a mural artist you get thrown these curve balls on a regular basis. We wished it to be actually massive, to be iconic, so it was a tough factor to do however I believe we managed to drag it off.”

On the backside nook of the mural, beneath the aim posts, sits a Dally M rugby league ball, intentionally included, Haines mentioned, to recognise the lads who supported girls enjoying rugby league again then.

Haines additionally believes NRLW participant of the 12 months, presently awarded a Dally M Medal the identical as their male counterparts, must be given a medal named after their very own legendary participant.

“She is the equal of Dally M within the girls’s sport, she was the primary star of the ladies’s sport, she was the best factors scorer, however most of all she was probably the most thrilling participant on the sector which is what Messenger was like,” Haines mentioned. 



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