Angela Powers

"Breaking barriers and opening doors"

Julia is one of rugby league’s most prominent figures. Over the last four decades she has helped to develop the sport of rugby league from many different perspectives, all of which have promoted and improved the game.

Julia made a huge step for women in the sport when she became the first qualified female match official, pushing against negative voices who questioned a woman’s ability to do the job. Her resilience and determination to overcome all obstacles put in front of her (no changing facilities just one example) ensured that she opened a pathway for other women to follow.

She has championed the girls’ and women’s game, both from within the governing body in various roles, and with other organisations including Her Rugby League Association CIC, for which she is spearheading a project aimed at supporting female players, spectators and volunteers. This project will provide a support network helping women and girls to develop on and off the field through education, information and self improvement workshops.

On top of this she has written a play called ‘Ref’, which charts her challenging and determined life in rugby league, which will no doubt engage and empower women and girls through the accessible and exciting medium of the stage.

Julia’s boundless energy and enthusiasm has made her a leading personality within a male-dominated sport, breaking barriers and opening doors for those who have followed. Her focus, ambition and passion have made her a woman who cannot and will not allow prejudice and traditional gender roles deny females the chance to fulfil their potential. She’s not just a role model, she is an inspiration.

Ralph Rimmer

CEO Rugby Football League

I first met Julia Lea on a Rugby League Coaching Course in Hull in 1991. At that point she was breaking new ground in being the most elevated female Match Official in the country. She had begun her officiating in the Humberside region and having personally played around that time against teams in that area, I knew immediately exactly the obstacles she must have overcome.

Since then our paths have crossed in many capacities on a fairly regular basis and so I have been able to witness her trajectory. She has quietly continued to break down barriers and achieve great things on behalf of the sport. In doing so, she inevitably helped us to change many of the out-dated perceptions that existed and helped us all to move forward.

We are not there yet, and Julia’s contribution has now moved once again to being external to the governing body, but I have no doubt that her very positive influence will continue within the sport and beyond it.

She has some steel in her belly and is a force for good.

Rachel Salt

Chair Cowling Womens Institute

Julia came to talk to our women’s group about her experiences of being a woman involved in the male dominated sport that is rugby league. Her talk encompassed her reasons for becoming involved in the game, from being a very young spectator, becoming a referee and her career path which followed. Julia’s talk was a real insight into the issues facing women, not just in sport but other fields too.

The talk was found to be inspiring by everyone who attended, with amusing but also thought-provoking anecdotes. She was very approachable, answering questions with great honesty and frankness. I would definitely recommend Julia Lee and the Common Sense Initiative to anyone looking for a unique way of encouraging people to seize the day, regardless of age, gender and background.

David Hinchcliffe

Former MP, Founder and First Secretary All Parliamentary Rugby League Group

“I first came across Julia Lee many years ago refereeing an open-age amateur rugby league match, in front of a sizeable and partisan crowd, at my old RL club in Wakefield. I was mightily impressed back then by the way she calmly and confidently stamped her authority on a very physical contest within the toughest of sports within an almost exclusively male environment.

I have subsequently got to know Julia personally and seen her apply the skills and capacities she demonstrated so successfully on the field of play to very good effect in a range of different roles off it.

From my knowledge of her, and the testimonies of others who know and have worked with her, I genuinely admire her leadership qualities and her ability to establish her authority in often quite challenging environments. Drawing from her own direct personal life experiences from quite a young age, she is a highly inspirational speaker, encouraging others – males as well as females – to challenge and overcome disadvantage, inequity and personal reticence, helping them develop more fully as individuals.”

Mark Robinson

Director Carnegie Great Outdoors

Julia is a highly motivated and accomplished professional who is driven by her desire to positively influence the lives of those she works with. Having worked with Julia on a number of joint initiatives and major events I admire her leadership skills, tenacity and business acumen which have clearly been developed through her successful career in Sport and as the first female Rugby League Referee.

Julia is a great role model for young people, with a proven track record and an inspirational story. She has a delivery style that exudes confidence in her abilities, and can meet demands of the most challenging clients. I feel fortunate to have worked with her and look forward to further developing a strong partnership between CSI and Carnegie Great Outdoors.

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