The Hamilton Hawks Rugby Club has nominated a female president for the first time in the club’s 55-year history.
Lesa Mason took over from Brett Sutherland, who had been in the role for 12 seasons, in early December.
Under Sutherland’s stewardship, the Hawks enjoyed plenty of success, reaching the grand final of the first grade competition 10 times since 2007, winning on eight occasions.
Masons association with the club began in 1999, when her husband arrived as a player, and has been involved in growing the team’s junior set up.
She said becoming the 12th club president was a “big honour”, but added she had some big shoes to fill.
“He’s (Mr Sutherland) done such an exceptional job, winning multiple premierships in that time, [including] five in a row,” she said.
“I’m there because I love the club and I have an understanding of how the club works and what the club needs.
“I think the fact that I’m female will give a different perspective on some things.”
Mason said the Hamilton Hawks were a “family-based club”, and her focus would be on its role in the community.
“I’m really passionate about parity between men and women’s sports, and we have up and coming junior teams, we have multiple junior girls teams, and we have a great women’s team as well,” she added.
“I’m all about fair and equal, and everybody being one club and working within the community – we have a great partnership with ‘Got Your Back Sista‘, a [Newcastle-based] domestic violence charity.”
The Hawks face a new challenge this year as, in December, the Hunter Wildfires were invited to become permanent members of the Shute Shield, the premier competition for rugby in NSW.
Current Wildfires coach Scott Coleman – the Hawks’ former coach and Hall of Fame member – invited 13 of the Hawks first-grade squad to trial for the Wildfires set up.
Ms Mason said Shute Shield membership would enable Newcastle’s best players to showcase their abilities.
“For the senior players in the area, it’s a great pathway for them to be noticed, take their game to the next level, and develop their skills,” she said.
“And those players that do come back to club, they’re going to bring that skillset back and pass that on to the club players.”