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Kate Rowan: Fending off gropers and requests for tea – why it’s hard to be a woman writing about sport

THE Aussies are at it again. First it was Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard bearing the brunt of sexists comments, now it’s rugby writer Georgina Robinson.

Former Australian rugby international David Campese triggered a storm yesterday by questioning her appointment as a rugby correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).

The debate began on Twitter after Campese remarked, “Why does the smh get a girl to write about rugby. Growden who was a great journo and now we have someone who has no idea about the game!"

This tone of comment did not surprise me because I’ve been writing about rugby since I was a student.

As much as what Campese said was completely wrong, I found it rather amusing. After two years attending rugby as an accredited journalist, I have become used to silly sexism from both sexes that can be so outdated it is actually funny.

I might not have the same profile as Robinson but I have endured similarly negativity on a private level.

Women in sports media may tell you how they constantly get asked to explain tea and coffee-making facilities in the media centre. At this stage, “here are the tea bags” comes as naturally as discussions about how many players should be committed to a ruck.

For all my assistance with the refreshments, it has taken a long time for me to elicit a cheery hello from some members of the print media. In some cases, two and a half years and two tours to New Zealand. I may not be getting more after this.

Some men have been cordial and encouraging since day one, as have those in public relations.

It would seem men working in television tend to be much more accepting of female journalists than some in print. Personally, I think this is because women are now part of sports broadcasting establishment, while in Ireland there are no women at the moment writing full-time on rugby.

Early on I used to be on the receiving end of funny looks, as if I was some sort of alien that had landed in the press box. This concept of a woman being regarded as an oddity is similar to reports from female politicians back in the 1970s.

David Pocock’s outrage at Campese’s archaic views does not surprise me, as I have also found respectful any players I had to deal with.

The odd journalist has perceived me asking questions of certain players as having an agenda. During this year’s Six Nations, I asked Tommy Bowe a few questions and, in the following media session, I asked his backline colleague Rob Kearney.

This led to one gentleman of the press mumbling under his breath: “Now, we know why she is here, Bowe last week, now Kearney!” I didn’t say anything at the time but I should have explained myself, I only asked them because they are both backs and I haven’t a clue about the pack!

Not long after that I went to see Ireland’s tight-head crisis unfold at Twickenham. I could not find my way to the media room so I asked for a little assistance.

I ended up being directed to the kitchens and before I could say anything, I was handed a waitress’s uniform! That story has become something of a party piece, as it is so absurd, most people I tell don’t really believe it.

Something else absurd happened that day. An older male journalist I had never met before gave me a full body frisk as I tried to walk past him. This was noted with guffaws by his cohorts but it was not much fun for me. There had been a few unpleasant pats on the bum before but this was different.

I know worse things can happen but I felt so degraded and shook at some sub-conscious level that I could not write about rugby for two months.

Now, you may ask why I came back to it, why do I keep on putting myself in this situation where I am open to stupidity? It is because the sublime buzz I get from writing about this beautiful, ugly, complex sport far outweighs, any of the ridiculous behavior I have encountered.