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Selfless Jessica Skinner making a difference at grassroots level

Women's rugby league in the western regions of NSW has been taken to new heights with the help of Women in League Achievement Award winner Jessica Skinner, who dedicates her time to developing talented players in country areas.

The Trangie Central School teacher has been coaching for five years, guiding the Western Rams league tag team before taking the reins of the club's tackle team last year.

She has also coached the Far West Academy league tag team and filled an assistant coaching role at the recent Jillaroos development camp.

ARLC Chairman Peter Beattie and St George Illawarra Dragons winger Rikeya Horne presented the NRL Community Award to Jessica in late August for the commitment she has shown in ensuring young girls have every chance to be successful when going through the pathways to the elite level. The award is proudly supported by Harvey Norman.

"Coaching is something I sort of fell into but something that I'm now extremely passionate about," Skinner said.

National Women in League Achievement Award 2018 - Jess Skinner

"With how rapidly the game is growing I feel responsible to do my part in growing the game from a female perspective especially out here in the country.

"I want to be a role model for our girls and that's what the game offers as well, a chance not only to be the best player you can be but it teaches you to be resilient, to be strong, independent while building connections.

"And at the same time I've learnt a lot from my players which I believe has made me a better person."

Jessica has been a pioneer in implementing the inaugural league tag academy program, developing female youth across remote and rural communities in the Barwon Darling, Outback and Castlereagh Leagues.

In the NSW country regions league tag has been a dominant sport for young girls and women and Skinner said her goal was to grow the contact element of the game with the many pathways that are giving an opportunity to talented players.

"We are a very big league tag community but tackle is just starting to develop out here and it's extremely important that we expose our girls to the contact aspect of the game," Skinner said.

"League tag can only take you to the Country Championships and that's it. There's nothing beyond that for them to strive for, whereas the women's premiership that has been brought in this year will continue to evolve and the game's pathways have become more clear.

"My passion is my western area girls - trying to make sure that when the time comes for them that they're all at the level that is expected for those elite pathways that are available now.

"There is so much raw talent in these communities and they do have fantastic work ethics, they are very motivated and commitment."

Jessica said the launch of the women's competition has already had an impact on the game in the country as they've seen an increase in participation with young girls switching codes.

"The premiership is a huge motivator for a lot of these girls," Skinner said.

"And we start seeing some of these girls coming over from touch footy, union, league tag - they're all transitioning over because they see those pathways and they're quite clear now.

"With the four teams the quality of football that we're starting to see and it's on mainstream TV - we have 12-year-old girls who are wanting to strive for that.

"When they're ready to go at 18 or 20 who knows where the game will be then, it's only going to get bigger and better."

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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