Katelyn Lockwood has never wanted to be treated any differently because she’s a girl.
The 12-year-old has now paved the way for others becoming the Newcastle Knights’ first female ball kid to work an NRL match when the Knights played the Brisbane Broncos at Hunter Stadium in Round 11.
In a proud achievement for herself, her family and the Club, the Hunter Sports High student is showing others rugby league is a passion shared equally between the sexes.
The journey to work on the big stage started 18-months ago when she answered the Knights’ call for trainee junior ball kids and became the Club’s first female recruit.
Katelyn’s apprenticeship was then served in the junior Knights’ SG Ball and Harold Matthews competitions and her skills more recently honed at the Club’s NSW Cup matches.
The hard work, dedication and fair share of weekend travel culminated at the Monday night game.
“I felt excited because I had never done it before at first grade,” Katelyn says.
The atmosphere of the game was the most noted difference for Katelyn with the big lights, thousands of supporters and the buzz of being up close to the NRL players the biggest highlights for the 12-year-old.
“There were more people and more pressure,” she said.
“It was fun to do it with different people and was exciting get to see the players up close.”
Katelyn has always fostered a passion for rugby league that proved the ultimate catalyst for her to take on her ball kid responsibilities.
The young Newcastle Knights Member played with the Morpeth Bulls for five years while in primary school and was a valuable member of the Morpeth Public School Knights Knockout side.
The sporting talent now plays in an NRL run girls’ development league tag competition in Hexham.
“I like playing because of meeting new friends and being able to work as a team,” she says.
While from afar the job of ball kid looks simple, it requires a high level of concentration and knowledge of NRL rules.
The ball kids watch the match acutely to anticipate when and where they will be needed to allow for the smooth flow of the game played out in front of hundreds of thousands of people watching on from the stands and at home.
“You need to pay attention and watch,” she explains.
“When you get older the more rules you learn.
“You need to know how to keep up with the touch judge and not worry about anything else but the game.”
Katelyn is proud of her achievement in its own right and even more so because she’s a girl.
“It’s good I get to go out there and show them it’s not just boys that do it,” she admits.
“I don’t get treated any differently and I don’t want to get treated any differently.”
The motivational young woman also has a simple message for other girls who aspire to be involved in rugby league.
“You need to keep trying and not give up,” she says.
“I think it would be good to see more girls get involved, especially if they’re not comfortable playing against the boys on the weekend.”
“My Dad wasn’t keen for me to start football when I was younger, but my mum went along with it.
“My dad was excited when I got a chance to work on an NRL game because he didn’t think I’d get a chance for a couple of years.
“I want to keep being involved in the NRL and could see myself being ref.”