Jessica Skinner: From Bush Footy To The Jillaroos

Jessica Skinner is a teacher from a rural community in NSW, who went from coaching at the grassroots level to becoming the Jillaroos’ Assistant Coach for the Women’s Rugby League World Cup.

Now as the Pathways Strategy Manager for the NRL, Jess is working hard to provide better representation for First Nations People in the sport and increasing opportunities – especially for those in regional and rural Australia.

In this episode of Blak Matters, Teela Reid and Michael “MC” Christian sit down with Jess to hear about her journey and what she hopes the future will hold for First Nations females working in professional sports.


It all started back home for Jess on her country, and encouraging First Nations women to participate in sport – that being the code she loves, NRL.

But that came with its challenges.

“It was actually just showing dinosaur men that women can play the game, to put it bluntly,” Jess says.

“It was just trying to [show] women belonged within the game on the paddock, just like the men and my own agenda and interest in it was tackling some of the social issues that we have within our region.

“So being able to use the game to bring women into that space, it also improved the behaviour of men during that time, but also, it became more of a bigger community to grow.”

Jess says sport for First Nations women has come a long way, but like many other battles they face, there is still work yet to be done. MC questions Jess how long she think it may take to see First Nation women coaching in the NRL.

“I definitely know there’s conversations that have been a part of the female pathways, why stop at NRLW when you can coach NRL?  There are a few hurdles still yet to jump to,” Jess says.

“In the women’s space, our representation is quite strong at the moment, there’s more than 100, 200 plus athletes, and we’ve got 37 First Nation head coaches in the women’s space, which is good representation.

“I don’t think that you should rule out women coaching NRL. Absolutely not. I think that there’s a space for women in there and different eyes on the game that will bring such another asset to them.”

Blak Matters provides an inclusive, authentic exploration of First Nations issues from a First Nations perspective. Delivered as an honest but positive conversation between friends, MC & Teela Reid, in under 20 minutes. Listen now on the Listnr app.