The South Sydney Rabbitohs will be paying tribute to one of the leading pioneers of women's Rugby League when they wear a jersey dedicated to South Sydney’s own Maggie Moloney in round 22, the NRL's Women in League round.
Miss Moloney is recognised as Australia's first female Rugby League star, mesmerizing crowds in the 1920s as a teenager.
Her feats are so immense that a mural has been painted in her honour in the street in which she grew up in Redfern, as well as calls for the annual women’s Dally M award to be renamed as the Maggie M Medal recognising the female player of the year each season.
Now this latest tribute will see Miss Moloney honoured on the Rabbitohs jersey when they play the Tigers in Tamworth on Friday 28 July.
On 17 September 1921, the Metropolitan Blues played the Sydney Reds with the Blues victorious by the scoreline of 21 points to 11. The star that day was 15-year-old Maggie Moloney who scored four tries in front of 20,000 to 30,000 people at the Sydney Agricultural Showgrounds. The Sun newspaper described her as the 'Dally Messenger of the Blues' after her try scoring feats and on-field performance that afternoon.
The New South Wales Ladies Rugby Football League, which began in 1921, only lasted three seasons, as did Miss Moloney's Rugby League career, but her efforts have never been forgotten and she has now been immortalized via the James Street Redfern mural and the Rabbitohs 2023 Women in League Jersey, and hopefully one day, the Maggie M Medal.
Rugby League Historian, Katherine Haines, says Moloney's efforts to showcase the athleticism and skills of female athletes in the years after World War I were something to behold.
"She scored four tries in that match and the crowd just loved her," Haines recalled.
"They loved her so much that by the second half they had learned her first name, they had learned that it was Maggie, and all around the arena, 20,000 people were calling out 'Go Maggie, Go Maggie!'
"It must have been just amazing because she was just 15 at the time.
"Maggie loved the Rabbitohs. She barracked for them her whole life. She was one of those dyed-in-the-wool Rabbitohs fans. In the team she had a nickname – it was South Moloney."
Sharon Billinge, the designer of the 2023 Rabbitohs Women in League jersey and the painter of the Redfern mural, said: "She (Maggie Moloney) looks really proud in this shot. You can see her features really well.
"When I was designing the jersey I wanted to keep the historical feel. We also put in the Redfern Post Office to give some context to where she lived and also to the Rabbitohs."
Haines says there is great importance behind this jersey.
"It's important that we recognise that there has always been women that want to play Rugby League. There’s always been women that have been strong enough, tough enough, fast enough, to play this game.
"This story also highlights the men supporting women to play. The New South Wales Rugby League tried to ban men from supporting this match but Dally Messenger himself supported the game and launched his new product, the Dally M Match Football, at this game. He ignored the ban and supported the game. Both he and Maggie were pioneers of the game and you can draw parallels between both he and Maggie.
"The reason that I think it's really lovely that the Rabbitohs have embraced Maggie is because this is a story that brings joy to people. I never met anyone where I have told them about this match and told them about Maggie where they don't feel some sort of joy. It shows that women can also be the conduits for the joy of football when they play the game and I think that's the most lovely contribution that Maggie can make to the Rabbitohs and that the Rabbitohs can make to her in terms of keeping this story alive."
The Rabbitohs will wear this very special jersey in their round 22 away game against the Wests Tigers in Tamworth on Friday 28 July in the NRL's Women in League Round.