Katrina Fanning is an Australian women’s sport pioneer, an Indigenous champion and rugby league legend.
On Sport Integrity Australia’s first edition of it’s podcast ‘On Side’ we discuss Fanning’s illustrious career, the issue of racism within sports and the role sport plays in reducing barriers.
We also discuss proposed changes to supplement regulation with Sport Integrity Australia’s Chief Science Officer Dr Naomi Speers and the Therapeutic Goods Administrations’ Dr Adam Cook and talk to our Deputy CEO (acting) Emma Johnson about her stunning Olympic Games debut as a 15-year-old in the segment From The Highlight Reel. To wrap up, our athlete educator Riley McGown answers the question: “How long do substances stay in your system?
Katrina’s fascination for rugby league comes from growing up in Junee, a country town where “rugby league is all anyone talks about”.
“I was just lucky that in my age group of boys in Junee there wasn’t too many boys that wanted to play … The first year the boys weren’t so sure about it [playing with a girl] – I don’t think they passed me the ball once, so I learned to tackle pretty well.”
She says playing rugby league gave her a sense of belonging, of acceptance, and the lessons she learned from sport can be transferred to all aspects of life.
While she acknowledges “silent barriers” when she was growing up, Fanning says she was lucky living in Junee was “a much easier road than it has been for many Aboriginal and Torres Islander people”.
“Whilst my experience wasn’t perfect it certainly is a lot further along the way to the Australia I aspire for us to have, that I want Australia to be, and it proves that it is possible with good will, and certainly sport played a big role in that.”
An advocate for the women’s game and indigenous community pathways, Fanning has been encouraged by the stance taken by some of our national sporting teams and associations and player-led movements against racism.
“I think it’s really important for people to see that all Australians should be offended when there’s racism or discrimination… we like to believe this country is built on a fair go and if you put in the effort and you’ve got the talent you will get your just reward, well, we have to live that, not just say it.”
She also discusses her role on Sport Integrity Australia’s Athlete Advisory Group, the Black Lives Matter movement and the ‘win-at-all-costs’ attitude that prevails.
“I get to catch up with lots of former athletes now and I can’t think of the last time when any one of them raised their win-loss record, their fastest times … [sporting success] shouldn’t be the only way you measure how successful you are as a person.”
Fanning, who played for Australia in the first ever women’s rugby league Test in 1995, says being labelled a “pioneer” doesn’t sit well with her as there were “decades of peoples’ hard work and sacrifice” beforehand.
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