To celebrate Women In League Week, Beyond the Mark is sharing different perspectives of women involved in rugby league. Savannah Tafau-Levy is a sport journalist interning at the NZ Warriors and a huge fan of the game.
How did you get involved with rugby league?
Growing up in Brisbane, Australia I was always involved with rugby league as it was a predominant sport. I was a born and bred Broncos fan and Queensland girl since I can remember. But it wasn’t until I moved to New Zealand where the real passion for rugby league began. I grew up being in the stands at Vodafone Warriors games and was surrounded by friends who had a real passion for the sport. I also witnessed all the hardships people went through to get the prize, I could relate to them as they could relate to me.
A best friend of mine Jacob Paulo was heavily involved with footy at one of the best clubs rich in history, Otahuhu Rugby League Club. I would attend their games every week and support all the talent showcased in grassroots footy. One day I said to Jacob, “I’m going to play rugby league” and he didn’t believe me. Actually, he laughed at me.
The next week I showed up to Otahuhu Rugby League women’s training on my own knowing absolutely nobody and it was a big step out of my comfort zone. Week in and week out I put in work and would watch and analyse the way Jacob played. You’d be sure to find me doing exactly the same things he was doing the next day and I had so much pride to put and own the lock (13) jersey. From there, my heart has always been in the sport, although I have missed two seasons playing for Otahuhu the team culture, nature and the fact women and get itty gritty in the dirt is something everyone should respect!
What advice would you give to those trying to become a sports journalist?
Sporting brand Nike’s legend Bill Bowerman was a track and field coach who invented shoes. He worked vigorously creating new shoes and applying different ways to improve them chipping away slowly for many years. He found most his inspiration through the people he met and other things like the famous waffle machine for his shoe spikes.
Now, he’s a multi billionaire and his legacy forever lives.
This is the advice I would give. You’re not going to be perfect and you’re not going to get where you want to be straight away, but everyday slowly chip away at your own craft and you will be rewarded. Persistence is everything so go in fiercely hungry in whatever you do. I also think that it is very important to literally be a sponge, absorb everything and be open minded in all situations.
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
Favourite league memory?
Attending State of Origin and witnessing the highest quality rugby league has to be in my top 3, but so far it is recently having 1 on 1 time with rugby league legend Olsen Filipaina. He is a true pioneer that without him, the breakthrough for Pacific Islanders in rugby league wouldn’t have happened or would have taken a longer time to happen. Our conversation was hours on end while watching this years State of Origin II and something I will cherish forever being a Samoan woman myself his humility to this day is admirable.
What are your interests outside of rugby league?
Before my love for rugby league was basketball and not many people know this because I hardly express my love for it now. Previously, I was known for being a basketball player as I played competitively and reached international level. Nowadays in my spare time I’d pick up a ball and relive the good old basketball days as it taught me what is required to be a professional athlete, knowledge I constantly apply to my work daily. I’ve sort of shoved that behind me, but I’m fortunate to still be involved with sport and what I want to do for a career – sports journalism.
Who is your favourite league player and why?
Corey Parker would be up there as one of my favourite league players only because of the position he played (lock), defensive presence and leadership abilities. Everyone knows Parker and if you don’t, well you need to. Although he is retired now, Parker’s input into rugby league is truly valuable in the growth of the game and certainly on and off the field he is recognised everywhere.
Photocredit: Bodie Friend