december 11 2018

Minerva Network Celebrates a Boom Debut Season


THE Minerva Network and its members are proud to have played a role in a watershed year for women’s sport in Australia. 

After a spectacular launch in March, the Network is celebrating the close of its first year and the myriad achievements that have followed.

The Minerva Network was established to help elite sportswomen identify and navigate commercial challenges through meaningful mentor-mentee relationships. Already, the Network has enabled athletes to close the gap between on-field activities and off-field success by helping them understand their full potential both on and off the field, including how to benefit from the commerce of sport.   

The foundation class of athletes included some of the biggest names in Australian sport such as cricketers Rachael Haynes and Alyssa Healy, Olympic Rugby 7s gold medallists Alicia Quirk, Emma Tonegato and Charlotte Caslick, Matildas defender Ellie Carpenter, and rugby league powerhouse Kezie Apps.

Quirk, whose informal mentorship with Minerva chair and co-founder, Christine McLoughlin, was a catalyst for an official program, says to have been part of the Network’s debut season has been an honour.

“It’s really special,” she says. “I was part of the first conversations with Christine and it’s incredible that has been able to have a ripple effect and helped so many others.

“Fundamentally I believe female athletes are the greatest role models and best, most easily marketed athletes, so it’s great that there’s now a platform for that to happen.

“I feel very privileged to have been part of it from the first year and then obviously to see it continue.” 

As well as conducting numerous and varied workshops throughout the year, from finance to post-career and even social media, the Network paired each of its athletes with an experienced businesswoman who has helped them leverage their rising influence.

For Quirk, the relationship with McLoughlin, now formalised, has been invaluable for the rugby star, who says she now has a far better understanding of her value. McLoughlin, Chair of the Venues NSW Board and of the Suncorp Group and nib Holdings, says: “I am overwhelmed by what the Minerva Network has achieved in its first year.

“That success is due to the generosity of many female business leaders in supporting our elite female athletes and the enthusiasm with which the athletes have embraced being part of the Minerva Network.”

Other Minerva mentors include CEO of the Green Building Council of Australia, Romilly Madew; Kate Aitken, General Manager of Human Resources for Westpac Institutional Bank; and Rugby Australia CEO, Raelene Castle. Ex-AFL commissioner Sam Mostyn, Chair of CitiGroup, is another Minerva co-founder, as is Castle, who says the Network was established at the right time.

“What the network has done is fill an obvious gap for female athletes and that is to give them a place to learn, a place to grow and place to develop,” Castle says.

“The timing was right. The important piece is that every step forward that the women’s sports environment makes, it also makes it even more important to have a support network like Minerva. With profile comes the pressure and with profile comes the questioning and with profile comes the requirement to think differently about your behaviour as an amateur athlete as you move into the professional environment.”

Minerva’s launch year coincided with plenty of success stories in women’s sport. To name but a few: Australia’s cricketers won the Twenty20 World Cup; NSW took out the inaugural Women’s State of Origin 16-10 against Queensland; the inaugural NRL Women’s premiership launched; the Wallaroos and All Blacks did battle in front of 28,842 fans at ANZ Stadium – a world record crowd for a women’s rugby international; the Matildas qualified for next year’s World Cup and progressed undefeated through the Tournament of Nations; the Rugby 7s clinched the World Series before claiming bronze at the World Cup; and Stephanie Gilmore secured her seventh world surfing title. Meanwhile, the extensive list of Commonwealth Games golden girls includes the Opals (basketball) as well as dual individual gold medallists Stephanie Morton (cycling) Madison de Rozario (athletics), and Cate Campbell and Lakeisha Patterson (swimming). Campbell won a third as part of the 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay team.

As such achievements, and women’s sport in general, takes its rightful place in the spotlight, these codes battle for public attention and the corporate dollar. Minerva has helped connect athletes across codes and establish a broad and supportive network aimed at strengthening the entire establishment.

“From a media point of view it’s hard because if one women’s sport is doing well then that takes away air time for your sport [but] in the Minerva space it’s all equal recognition,” explains Quirk. “It’s not competitive. It’s healthy and supportive.

“It’s been really helpful to have that experienced level head in terms of battling different situations in a commercial space [and] with the women-in-sport movement that’s happening at the minute, it’s just awesome to support each other. It helps empower and build on the idea of women in sport.”

The Network and its members plan to capitalise on a successful year with sights on improved input from codes, stronger player management support, and introducing male influencers, among other priorities for 2019.

A major conference bringing together leading athletes, sports administrators, and businesswomen, and to be aptly held at the new Bankwest Stadium in Western Sydney, is also in the pipeline.

The success of Minerva would not have been possible without the backing of sponsors such as Enigma, the creative firm behind the network’s branding and website, and major supportVenues NSW and VenuesLive.

Join the conversation: @minerva_network #MinervaNetwork #WomenInSport