Each day this week, for Women in League round we will be profiling different women who make significant contributions to rugby league in the Canberra region.
The Gunning Roos may be a small club from a country town, but what it may lack in size is made up for with a lot of heart, soul and family. And it all starts with Kathy Johnson.
Kathy Johnson has been President of the Gunning Roos for the last three years, joining her son Tom, who was already at the club.
Affectionately known as “mum” amongst all the players, Kathy has a strong bond with everyone at the club.
Her daughter-in-law, Christie Johnson, plays for the Gunning Rooettes in the George Tooke Shield league tag competition, and recently celebrated her 50th game for the club. Kathy’s son, and Christie’s husband, Tom currently plays hooker for the Gunning Roos men’s side.
Kathy became involved at the club after son Tom thought she’d be the perfect person the club needed.
“I became involved because Tom was coaching the Roos. I had just gone through chemo and cancer treatment and I was in remission and Tom said ‘how about you come onboard Mum, this needs sorting out’ so here I am,” Kathy said.
The thing that Kathy emphasises most is the real family culture that Gunning have grown, something that makes her proud.
“A lot of our players are parents with little children, which makes it very special too. The mums play, the dads are there looking after the kids,” Kathy said.
“It’s a family club, we’ve always said we wanted a family club and we want to involve everyone from the club. Last year we had a children’s clinic, but we aren’t allowed to hold it this year due to COVID. We are very keen to get that going again.”
Kathy and the club have also undertaken many fundraising events, raising money for different charities.
“We’ve raised quite a bit of money since we’ve been involved for charities. We did MS and Bears of Hope, that was a big one last year, we raised heaps of money for that one, those affected by loss of babies.”
Christie has been playing for the Rooettes for the last four years, having played at Binalong the year before moving over to Gunning.
She says that the women’s competitions and participation has grown greatly during her time involved in the game.
“It has, obviously this year has been a bit different, there’s only four teams in the comp, but the amount of people getting involved now compared to even five years ago is huge, it’s good. The last five years have taken off, there wasn’t much around prior to that,” Christie said.
The club is filled with many dedicated players, with one player travelling from Moss Vale, Christie and husband Tom commuting from Bookham and a couple of players from Tuggeranong in Canberra. They are required at training two nights a week, plus their games over the weekend, which means a lot of travel time.
But Christie says being involved in a small-town club is very rewarding.
“The atmosphere it brings to small country towns and getting everyone out and about with something to look forward to every weekend. It’s just great,” Christie said.
While Kathy smiles about the Roos and her time there so far, it hasn’t always been easy for the small-town club.
The club has been struggling with maintaining sponsors, but Christie explains that COVID has also been a bit of a blessing for Gunning.
“It’s hard because we don’t have the luxury of getting all those big sponsors like you do in town. We have a couple of sponsors in Gunning that try and get behind us. It’s a tough year and a lot of them have cut back their sponsorship which is fair enough. The pub is supposed to be one of our majors but they’ve just been really hard done by,” Christie said.
“But in saying that, COVID has saved our club, we’ve got a lot of players that have joined us this season because they wanted to play some footy and we hope that some of them decide to stay and play with Gunning next year, because they’ve really enjoyed their time here.”
Kathy is very dedicated to her role at Gunning, and while there are many highs and lows, she is grateful to be part of it all.
“Getting involved with your family, getting involved with the players and enjoying the ride. That’s what it is all about,” Kathy said.
“It gives me a buzz, seeing all the smiles. It makes it all worthwhile.”