Melissa spearheading women’s game

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With applications for Illawarra Rugby League’s 2022 scholarship program now open to all local players, officials and volunteers over the age of 16, past recipient and Corrimal Cougars women’s coach Melissa Spero is encouraging potential applicants from across the board to apply for the program.

The program, run in conjunction with the IRL’s Education Partner UOW College Australia, provides up to $10,000 in course fees and personalised support for those balancing their commitments to study, work and rugby league.

Melissa was a winning applicant in 2019, with the scholarship helping her to complete her Certificate IV in Fitness, all while she was coaching multiple teams and playing in local competitions.

“It was a bit of a juggling act, but the guys at UOW College were really understanding and gave me the opportunity to juggle things around, so it didn’t impact my footy too much in that respect,” says Melissa.

“They were able to support and help me along the way, and work with me one-to-one to help me be successful in completing the course.”

Cougars on winning run

Corrimal’s senior women’s tackle team are competing in the Macarthur competition this year, with the Cougars winning four out of their five matches so far this season under Melissa’s coaching.

She was also recently appointed as coach of the inaugural Australian Schoolgirls team, and says that her qualification has assisted her in her coaching, and in tailoring programs to female players.

“We’ve been able to utilise my knowledge and skills for the teams that I’ve been involved in, and we’ve been able to adapt programs for girls if they’ve been injured, so we’ve been able to bring it into coaching and it’s given me a bit of rounded knowledge.

“Part of the reason I wanted to do it was because I feel like I’m out in the community quite a bit, and I thought it would compliment what we do with our football teams really well, and I feel that it’s already doing that.

“If I hadn’t have got the scholarship I think it would be something that I was going to do, and never have had the time to do, so it was really good to get the opportunity.”

Applications now open

With this qualification behind her and hopes to further her skills as a coach, Melissa has been a prime example of an applicant who has improved her academic and rugby league related qualifications through the scholarship.

If you are involved in rugby league in the Illawarra as a player, coach, or volunteer, are over the age of 16, click here to apply or to find out more about this incentive created by the partnership between the IRL and UOW Colleges Australia.

Words | Russ Haylock

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