Kylie Hilder, In A League of Her Own

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She’s forged a path for women in Rugby … We speak withKylie Hilder about the future of the sport once dominated by the opposite sex.

You’ve had a pretty impressive career, including playing for New South Wales City, New South Wales Blues, the Jillaroos and also representing Australia in four Touch Football World Cups. How did your journey and passion for the game start?

It started when I would go and watch my dad play Touch Football up at Wingham. Back in those days, women didn’t really play in our local area.

One night his team was short, so I filled in, and from there I fell in love with playing Touch. I use to love watching Rugby League on telly and always used to think the closest thing to me being able to play Rugby League was playing Touch Football. I fell more and more in love with the game of Touch, but when I got the opportunity to finally have a game of Rugby League, I jumped at it.

You’re currently the Women’s Participation Officer with Country Rugby League; can you tell us a bit about your role?

My role is to increase female participation in NSW Country in Rugby League, as well as our non-contact format League Tag for all ages. I do this by creating competitions to allow females to play either form. CRL has now for the first time given a female in any part of NSW Country an opportunity to play Rugby League for NSW Country, NSW, Australia and a NRLW side, without having to leave their home towns to be identified. We have created a clear pathway for females, which was a big dream of mine when I started this role.  

Where do you see the future of Country Rugby League?

Country Rugby will continue to provide pathways for males and female and do this without them having to leave their home. CRL has created some great elite competitions.

Country kids are often at a disadvantage; how do you plan to overcome this?

We have overcome this already with the creation of our own elite competitions. For the first time this year there will be 10 country regions playing against each other in a Country Championships over four weeks.

You’re also Assistant Coach for Sydney Roosters Women’s premiership; what does this entail?

I will be taking this role on for the first time this year. I was a player last year, and Roosters have asked me to stay involved with the side this year. I basically will assist the Head Coach. Coaching is something I would love to get involved in, and this is a great opportunity for me to learn as much as I can. The Roosters have been really great, and I will also be getting some valuable mentoring from the Men’s NRL Coach, Trent Robinson.   

You’ve had an incredibly successful career; what have been the highs and lows?

Highs, there are so many … Every time I represented my country was a high.

In Touch Football, my career highlight would have been being given the captaincy of the open mixed side for four years, and then to finish my career in Touch as Captain and winning my fourth World Cup on home soil. I can honestly say I’ve never had a low in Touch Football.

In Rugby League, I have had a couple of highs, winning the first Nationals with the NSW Country side last year, then topping it off by getting a contract with the Sydney Roosters. I guess a low was tearing my MCL at the Nationals, then finding out from the NSW Coach I had been selected in the NSW Women’s side.

Who’s been the biggest influence on your career?

Definitely my husband, Troy. I couldn’t have done or achieved any of it without his support, advice and guidance over the last 15 years. Not once did he stand in my way, and he was always the first one to encourage me to continue playing both Touch Football and Rugby League after the birth of my two children. There has been a lot of time away from my husband and two boys, Ashton and Nate, training or playing in either sport, and I couldn’t have done it without him.

Women’s Rugby League is a fast growing area. What do you hope for its future?

I hope that one day we will see a Women’s NRL Competition that mirrors the men’s and women being able to make a career out of playing Rugby League.

You haven’t hung up your boots just yet; however, where do you see yourself and your role in Rugby once you do?

No, I haven’t as yet. We have Rick Stone coaching our CRL Newcastle side this year in the NSW Harvey Norman Competition, so I have decided to play one more year to learn from someone with years of experience at high levels. The best way to learn is to do, so that’s why I’m playing. My role will be continuing to work for CRL and increasing female participation in the country and to create and give as many females as possible opportunities to play Rugby League and League Tag. I would also like to head down the coaching path as well.   

What’s your advice for young girls starting out in Rugby League?

Don’t be scared. It is such an addictive game to play, and you will fall in love with it very quickly. There are so many great opportunities starting to happen in the women’s game, and it’s a great time to get involved.  

Thanks Kylie.

Interview: Bronwyn Davis.

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