Sue Taylor has been a trailblazer for rugby league at the grassroots in Huddersfield and now she’s been honoured for her contribution to the game.
Sue, 65, of Beaumont Park, is the current vice-president of the Rugby Football League, working closely with RFL president Clare Balding, the BBC sports presenter.
And this week it was announced that Sue’s name would be added to the prestigious RFL Roll of Honour, which since 2003 has recognised 50 individuals for their outstanding contribution at all levels of the sport.
With the RL World Cup currently underway – and coming to Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium on Friday November 4 – Sue’s high profile on an international stage is very much in contrast to how it all started.
Sue got into rugby league in the early 1970s through her husband John, who played for Underbank in Holmfirth. Sue was soon signed up to the committee and became secretary. She also went on to serve in similar roles at other local clubs including St Joseph’s and Newsome Magpies.
Sue was one of the founders of the Magpies in 1989, a forerunner of the successful Newsome Panthers.
Sue has also served as treasurer and secretary of the Huddersfield Amateur League and fulfilled similar roles with the Pennine League. She remains involved with both organisations.
She became the first female chair of the British Amateur Rugby League Association (BARLA) in 2013. Earlier this year, her longevity in that role, which also involves representing BARLA on the Rugby League Council, led her to being appointed as vice-president of the RFL, an honorary position she will hold until December 2023.
On how she got into the sport, Sue said: “I was introduced to Rugby League through my husband John when we started dating in the early 70s. We were both runners at Lockwood youth club and as well as running John was asked to play rugby, so I would go and watch him.
“Back then those community clubs were generally run by men and the wives and girlfriends would put on the after match refreshments.
“When I left school I worked as an office administrator so I could type, which came in handy. It meant I helped at meetings and such.”
It wasn’t just the typing either that Sue was needed for in those early days. “I must have gone through about 20 washing machines in my time having to wash club kits!” she recalled.
Eventually Sue moved deeper into the admin side of running clubs and paved the way for more women to get involved.
On how she dealt with entering a male-dominated sport, Sue said: “I felt quite comfortable doing the roles I did because I was always at games too, so people got to know me. Also, whole families would go to games and lots of people took their kids.
“Through John playing we got to meet various people and you got to see who was on various committees.
“Some of the older gentlemen might have been taken aback by a woman coming onto the committee. However, I just got on with whatever I needed to do.
“I have been re-elected to the chair position at BARLA since 2013, there are new elections every two years. Some people may say I have done a good job and others might say not but that’s what it is!
“I recently became vice-president of the RFL alongside Clare Balding and I stand in for her at events and presentations when she is unable to make it. It’s a position I’m very proud to hold.
“I think there’s always been the opportunity for women to be involved in our sport on the admin side but now there are more opportunities for women to play the game but also to coach it or become a referee.
“John still plays masters rugby and I support him in that. He supports me with what I do and we have just enjoyed the sport together over the years.”
As for the future of rugby league, Sue believes change is inevitable. She said: “If we all pull together and move in the right direction then the future of the sport is good. Yes, there will be change and change can be good.
“Covid-19 gave the sport a chance to think and reset itself and move forward. It’s a fantastic sport with some amazing people working with in it and it’s a sport I’m proud to be part of.”
Meanwhile, the John Smith’s Stadium hosts a World Cup quarter-final tie on Friday November 4. There will be food and drink stalls in St George’s Square from 1pm for everyone to enjoy and there will be a full programme of musical entertainment.