Women’s sport has exploded in popularity in Aotearoa in recent times – in large part thanks to the success of the all-female editions of the Cricket, Rugby and Football World Cups hosted on our shores in the last two years.
Now, we’re seeing wahine athletes here and overseas rise to levels of stardom that used to exclusively be the domain of men. The likes of Ruby Tui, Dame Lisa Carrington and Lydia Ko are household names, and women now grab one in four sports headlines.
But it hasn’t always been this way. For decades, sports journalist Suzanne McFadden had to battle to make sure women got a mention into the sports pages of the newspaper.
And, as she told Grey Areas with Petra Bagust, part of that battle was about allowing her and other female journalists their chance to work in the sports department in the first place.
“I got a job at the Herald, but I had to work in the news department and that was that was great until I was on Auckland District Court duty every day, and I was covering a trial and the defendant threatened to kill me – true story.
“I went back to the office in tears and said, ‘I'm not going back there tomorrow’. And they said, okay, you've earned your keep, you can get a job in sports department. So I finally got my opportunity – but for the ten years that I was there, it was just me and ten men.
“LOTS OF WOMEN WANTED TO DO IT [SPORTS JOURNALISM], BUT THEIR JUST WAS NO SPACE FOR US.”
Suzanne was initially given yachting stories and had some bad experiences covering these – facing rudeness, gender discrimination, and being ignored. But over time she built up a reputation as a talented journalist.
After leaving the Herald, Suzanne went freelancing for 17 years before bagging a job as a sports writer for Newsroom and ultimately establishing LockerRoom, a site focused exclusively on stories about female athletes.
“Oh my God, It's just been wonderful,” she told Petra.
“OUR IDEA IS THAT WE RUN ONE STORY A DAY… AND WE HAVE HELPED TO INCREASE THE COVERAGE OF WOMEN'S SPORT IN NEW ZEALAND. BUT THE THING THAT I'M MOST PROUD OF IS THAT WE'VE INTRODUCED NEW WAHINE VOICES [TO SPORTS WRITING].”