Mary Konstantopoulos is a twenty-something year old lawyer who is passionate about sport.
In 2012 Mary founded ‘Ladies who League’, a blog to encourage more women to get involved in conversations about rugby league. Since then Mary has developed relationships with the Parramatta Eels, Wests Tigers, Canterbury Bulldogs, Cronulla Sharks, Wests Tigers and Australian Jillaroos. Mary also sits on the NRL’s Women in League sub-Committee which works to ensure that all parts of the rugby league family are inclusive and welcoming for everyone.
In 2014 Mary worked directly with the Sydney Thunder to establish ‘Ladies who Legspin’ and in 2015 ‘Ladies who Leap’ supported by the GWS Giants and ‘Ladies who Lineout’ supported by the Australian rugby union followed. In 2015, the ‘Ladies who League’ podcast was also born, where a group of women get together each work to talk about the big news in sport that week, with a particular focus on championing women in sport.
Mary is also an advisory board member of Western Sydney Women and secretary of the LBW Trust.
On the weekend, you will find Mary watching sport and cheering on her beloved Parramatta Eels, GWS Giants, Sydney Thunder and Western Sydney Wanderers.
Somewhere in it all, Mary sleeps… apparently. This is the latest instalment in my series of conversations with women in sports media.
Why did you decide to start your own website?
I have always been passionate about sport, particularly rugby league. In 2012, much like most other people I meet, a colleague of mine (a fabulous woman named Simone Whetton) worked this out and suggested to me that I start my own blog. My response to her was ‘no, I don’t think anyone would want to read what I have to say’. She suggested it one more time, I decided I had nothing to lose and that it was worth a crack. The next day ‘Ladies who League’ was born with the aim of encouraging more women to get involved in conversations about rugby league.
In 2016, the latest addition to the family became the ‘Ladies who League’ podcast, where a group of women get together each week to discuss the latest happenings in sport.
What made you decide to start your own website, as opposed to working with an existing organisation, website or sport?
I had previously been a writer for several other websites, but always felt like the odd one out. There was always a distinct lack of female presence and at times, I experienced hostility because of my gender. I wondered whether this hostility discouraged other women from writing (and I strongly believed that this was the case).
I started my own website because there was no one else doing what I was doing. I wanted to create a community of women writing about sport, for both men and women to enjoy.
Were you aware of other women’s sport websites out there? Who?
When I first started ‘Ladies who League’, my knowledge of women in league only really extended to a couple of women featured in the media. Over time, I began to get exposed to a wide variety of women involved in rugby league (including women who played the game). Slowly, this started fuelling an increased interest in women’s sport, so along the way, I have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know some other amazing women who have started women’s sport websites including Danielle Warby (Sporting Sheilas and SBS Zela), Debbie Spillane (HensFC), Ann Odong (The Women’s Game), Lucy Zelic (SBS Zela) and Sam Squires (Sportette).
I have also had the opportunity to meet and work with women passionate about women’s sport who contribute to a broad range of websites including (but definitely not limited to) Brittany Carter, Erin Riley, Megan Hustwaite, Yvonne Sampson, Anna Harrington, Kate Symons, Amanda Shalala and Emma Lawrence. These brave and talented women advocate for women’s sport so passionately and it is a joy to work with them and call them my friends.
How important is it for you to be able to set your own editorial direction?
The first time I ever seriously thought about this question was in response to someone who asked me why I didn’t ask the NRL to sponsor my website.
I have realised that my power comes from being a woman who is passionate about rugby league, that writes and shares and advocates purely out of love. Were the NRL to sponsor me financially, I would absolutely lose my independence and my message begins to lose power because I have an interest in sharing positive stories about rugby league.
It is essential that I set my own editorial direction so that people stand up and take notice of my message and understand that the reason I am sharing my message is to encourage diversity and inclusion in the sports I am passionate about.
How important do you think it is for women to create their own media?
It is extremely important for women to create their own media, particularly when it comes to sport.
So often when I share my love of sport with other people (particularly love of male dominated sports), people are surprised that I have such a keen interest in sport. I am not the only woman with such a keen interest.
Women make up approximately 50% of the population and make significant contributions to sport – it’s time we started sharing these stories and making female interest in sport the norm, rather than the exception.
Additionally, because women understand the issues faced by women in relation to gender inequality, they are often the fiercest and most passionate advocates for women who play sport and understand some of the challenges these women face when compared to their male counterparts. The more stories about women in sport we share, the more likely it is that new people will be drawn to our female athletes and support them in their chosen sports.
What can we do to encourage our ‘brothers’ to jump on the women’s sport bandwagon?
Keep talking about it! I have found that being relentless in my championing of women’s sports through my own channels has really helped to introduce others to sports and sportswomen that they were not aware of.
So often, authors share articles complaining about the lack of female sports coverage. Instead of writing an article complaining about the coverage, pen an article about the WBBL, the W-League or the AFLW or continue to share and support the independent media websites who share these stories. There is plenty of women’s sports content if you know where to look.
But we have work to do. We need to continue to support each other and share each other’s content and we need to encourage other women to write too and not be afraid of speaking out in a space that is traditionally male.
We also need to get our bums on seats at games to show the traditional media, that women’s sport is worth celebrating (and take your mates along with you).
What do you think is needed to take women’s sport to the next level?
I would like to see more brands recognise the power of women’s sport and how influential our female athletes are as role models. We have seen brands like Buildcorp (rugby), Harvey Norman (AFL and NRL), NAB (AFL) and Samsung (netball) all invest in women’s sport in the last year. More brands need to do the same.
Our female athletes need to be paid appropriately. We cannot expect women to commit to professional leagues and devote the time and energy required to be elite athletes if they still need to work several jobs, study and support a family at the same time. When our athletes are paid to do what they do best, we will see the quality of women’s sport improve further and encourage other women to get involved.
What are your long-terms plans for your website?
I call ‘Ladies who League’ my empire and my plans are to continue to build it. My long term goal is to have a financially sustainable website (with sponsors) that covers all sports and allows women to write quality content on both the men’s and women’s game.
Watch this space….
Read More from Women in Sports Media
This interview is a part of a series on women in sports media. Read more: