Finalist 2016: Mikah Appel, QLD
Name: Mikah Appel
Community, State: Biloela, QLD
School: Biloela State High School
Age: 16, Grade 11
Why is gender equality important to you and your community?
My teammate powered ahead of me with the ball tucked into her armpit. My boots clawed at the soft turf, as I waited for the moment I was needed to clean out the opposition. Within seconds she was dragged to the ground, I pushed into the tackle to support her, but the ball was snatched away and the other team began the quest to their try line. I watched helplessly as they broke through our defensive line, wondering how we could have possibly lost the ball.
Turning to my rugby coaches- Chloe and Sharni- for advice, they explained,
‘if you want to keep the ball, you have to hold onto your teammate in front of you, and support her as she takes the tackle.’
If females want gender equality, we need to keep hold of that ball. We must work with our teammates to teach girls that their gender does not limit what they are capable of. When the opposition tries to stop us, we must support each other to push through, leading by example of what strong, motivated females look like, while educating about positive and respectful behaviour towards women, both on and off the field.
Coming from a small town in Central Queensland, sport is all about community. Being the daughter of a passionate rugby player, the love of the game was a birthright. As a female, having access to sports that use the oval ball has had many obstacles. After many hours of training and kilometres travelled to be able to access opportunities, I have represented the Capricornia region as part of the U/16 Women’s AFL team and, more recently, have been selected in the Central Queensland U/18 Women’s Rugby Development Squad. I am the first student, male or female, to represent my school and town in these sports. With this privilege comes a responsibility and commitment to advocate for gender equality in my community, for access to opportunities for both sexes and to encourage females to embrace previously male dominated sports by overcoming stereotypes.
As I proudly watched my coaches, Sharni Williams, co-captain of the Rio Women’s 7’s team, and Chloe Dalton receive their Olympic gold medals, I knew that their advice would always stay with me, whether I was on the field or rallying for equality in my community.