An experienced Hunter Valley mine worker is among the recruits to the Newcastle Knights for its new team in the 2021 NRLW competition starting this weekend.
It’s another reason for mining communities to cheer for the rugby league club which has been so closely connected to the mining industry for many years.
Thirty-year-old Phoebe Desmond has worked in mining for 10 years and joins an esteemed group of Newcastle Knights players - including Billy Peden, Steve Simpson, Adam Muir, Tony Butterfield, Josh King and more - that have all been part of the industry.
Phoebe is employed at Glencore’s Bulga Open Cut mine near Singleton, which produces high-grade metallurgical and thermal coal for export. She operates haul trucks and drill rigs which are essential to safe and efficient operations.
“I'm excited about the opportunity, that's for sure. And being able to show the other girls out there that we can do both worlds. We can have a mining career and we can have a football career, and put them both together,” she said.
“During my school days, Steve Simpson’s wife was one of our PE teachers. He would often encourage us at footy gala days and give us a couple of wise words of wisdom.
“And knowing that Josh King was a Singleton local working here at Bulga Coal. He worked hard and set a platform for us, so it would be really good to be on par with him too.”
Blaise Walters is the Drill and Blast Superintendent at Bulga. Together with Phoebe, they’ve agreed to flexible working arrangements so she can keep working and train and play NRLW.
“It is very exciting that we’ve got one of our own with a contract at the Newcastle Knights. We’re all really into the footy here and it’s a great thing for her and for us, which is why we want to support her as much as we can,” he said.
The NSW Minerals Council is a major sponsor of the Newcastle Knights in the NRLW and Phoebe says she is thrilled that her industry is getting behind the team.
“I was actually gobsmacked when I got the call that NSW Mining would be a major sponsor. It’s a really proud moment,” she said.
“I’m really grateful for the support of my employer and my colleagues who are getting right behind me as I prepare for my first NRLW season. I’m excited to take my game to that next level and I can’t wait to represent my region on the national stage.”
NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said the entry of the Newcastle Knights into the NRLW was a special moment for women’s sport and the mining industry was proud to support it.
“Everyone in mining will be cheering for Phoebe and her teammates when the NRLW gets underway. We wish them all the best and we’re very proud to help support the club and their efforts to grow the game for women as well as for men.”
As well as her work in mining, Phoebe is a valued member of the local community and has made a big contribution to grassroots football and junior development, especially for young women that want to play the game.
The forward played five seasons in the Sydney Metropolitan Competition for the Maitland Pickers, the Hunter Stars and North Newcastle as well as for the Newcastle Maitland Knights in the NSW Country Rugby League competition.
She has also played at the annual Hunter Valley Mining Charity Rugby League Day where mine workers and the community have raised over $400,000 for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.
But Phoebe says her biggest achievement has been establishing the first women’s team in Singleton, including securing sponsorship and recruiting players.
She’s mentored many young women on the field as a player and as a coach, an opportunity that arose after a couple of difficult injuries that kept her on the sideline for extended periods.
And now three of those young women Phoebe coached in local Hunter Valley teams have also been signed to play for the Newcastle Knights in the NRLW.
“I never thought that day would come that I would be able to run alongside the girls that I coached in the under 12s and under 14s. It feels fantastic, a real achievement knowing that I helped them out along the way and puts me in a really happy spot,” Phoebe said.
“As someone with a bit more experience, I hope to be able to bring leadership, focus and a bit of discipline to the team.
“We’re going to be playing against some high profile players and the competition is going to be really strong. They don’t need to know who we are now, but they definitely will know who we are after we’ve played.”
Media contact: Brad Emery | email@example.com | 0450 620 254