Rugby's agents of change

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

ARU board member Liz Broderick believes Rugby can change Australia and she, Ann Sherry and Pip Marlow, are three women who want to help it along.

The trio watched on at the Sydney Sevens as the Women’s Sevens team marvelled the crowd with a clean sweep against Ireland on a weekend that only helped reinforce the potential for growth in the mind of the code’s most influential people.

Broderick is Australia’s national sex discrimination commissioner, Sherry a former Westpac executive and Carnival Australia CEO and Marlow the general manager of Microsoft Australia and all are lifelong Rugby fans.

All three will be critical in shaping Rugby going forward and making it more representative of those involved at all levels.

Broderick says the international nature of Rugby lured her to the sport originally.

“When I looked at my involvement and particularly at the governance level it was about looking at a sport that was truly global and I think Rugby is,” she said.

“Also a sport that has the power to create change in the nation and that’s really what attracted me to Rugby.”

Having all scaled the heights of the corporate world, Broderick said the deeply embedded emotional element of sport made it a powerful platform for change.

“People connect to corporate brands on one level, they connect with their sporting teams on a totally different level,” she said. 

“The level of engagement is so deep and I think that's the great opportunity in rugby as well.”

Pip Marlow speaking at the 2015 Bledisloe Cup Festival Women in Sport lunch. Photo: Getty Images

Seeing the popularity of the Sevens firsthand, Broderick said the truncated form of the game was where a major opportunity lay.

“The men’s game is very strong and needs to continue to be strong but what we have now is the opportunity to be a game for all to really build the women’s game,” she said.

“I think particularly with the Women's Sevens and just what a fantastic team they are and how well they’re doing as well, it makes it (Rugby) much more accessible.

“I think Rugby has the power to speak to both men and women equally and when we do that, we do change the nation.”

Marlow is the latest addition of the three, with Sherry having been on the board for four years, and said having a diverse presence at the board table was vital.

“Role modelling is an important part of creating culture and creating change,” she said.

“That’s why it’s amazing to have three women on a national sports board setting a new tone for this code.

“Fans are gender agnostic. They’re just here for the love of the game and if we can have people representing that at the boardroom table in the exec, then we won’t miss people.”

For Broderick,it's simply good business sense.

“This is about increasing capability and performance...I just think having a diverse senior management is critical to running a highly effective and capable management of the sport.”

Sherry said while the game had changed a lot in her time, there's more to do.

“It's such an iconic alliance with the Wallabies so we’ve got one of the great 15s teams in the world,” she said.

“You've got the Wallaroos as well and we need more energy going into them.

“Then you overlay the Sevens which is a completely different form of the game and just getting more engaged at the grassroots.

“So there’s tons to do but we’re in a much better position than we were a few years ago.”

And as for that next step, Broderick says evolution is the only way forward.

“I’ve seen it in social movement - unless they continually evolving, they lose support and become irrelevant.

“The same goes for sport.

“That’s what the exciting opportunity for this sport is, that evolution has to happen.

“It's very much recognising the brand power of the Wallabies and the huge success it continues to be in the nation.”