From the Grandstand by Col Hennessy


If the popular movie was all about Mary, then the sporting world is all about Kate.

When the AFL season finished, the Melbourne football club were all celebrating their premiership there was their president Kate Roffey holding centre stage. She had been on the board for six years but was the first female president of the club in its long history. I had come to respect her via her many appearances on the ABC breakfast show where she would often dissect the key news items for the day.

I respected her even more when she (initially) gave up her seat on the plane/hotel for Perth so that one of the staff on the coaching panel could attend. In the end more spaces became available.

Mind you, she is not the first female president of an AFL club. In fact, the most successful club in recent years, Richmond, is also led by a remarkable lady, Peggy O’Neal. She became president in 2013 and led them to a premiership four years later and repeated the feat soon after.

In the NRL world we have our own Kate as well. The dynamic Mrs. Harvey Norman, better known (maybe not) as Katie Page has been on the NRL board for a number of years and was the driving force behind the women’s competition which is about to expand with extra teams. It helps too when the company is one of the chief sponsors of the state of origin matches. Katie was the first woman to be appointed to the board in 2005 and that showed the way for future ladies to follow down that path.

But wait there’s more. Have you heard of Kate Palmer? Probably not as the role she holds has a much lower profile but is just as important, maybe even more so. Kate is the CEO of Sports Australia. She came from a background of netball administration but in this role, she is responsible for the distribution of millions of dollars in funds to different sporting organisations and establishes strategic plans for their growth and development.

Now that brief overview is only the Kates of the sporting world. Nicole Livingstone, that Olympic swimmer and media commentator now heads the entire AFLW competition. Years earlier of course we had Raelene Castle do the same job for Australian Rugby (and before that the Canterbury Bulldogs).

In the media world Caroline Wilson is generally regarded as the most read AFL journalist with her work in the ‘Age’ newspaper. I look forward to her banter with Roy Masters on the Offsiders show as they snipe at the mistakes of opposing codes.

So, it is one thing to have possibly our three best and most loved sporting identities from the female change rooms (Ash Barty, Sam Kerr and Elysse Perry) but it looks like a growing trend to have talented ladies like our Kates head the boardroom and shape the future of their particular sports. Go girls!