Harvey Norman CEO Katie Page will sponsor the Auburn Giants AFL team
Originally published at dailytelegraph.com.au by John Lehmann
HIGH-flying businesswoman Katie Page is leaping into the AFL and sponsoring a team for the first time — a move which will surprise NRL bosses.
“Welcome to the dark side,’’ AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan joked yesterday as he greeted Ms Page at GWS Giants headquarters at Sydney Olympic Park.
Harvey Norman CEO Ms Page told The Daily Telegraph the retail giant would sponsor Auburn Giants, Australia’s first predominantly Muslim women’s AFL team.
“We get approached to do a lot of things but we want to work with people who have the same mindset as us — community, grassroots, inclusion, bringing women through,’’ Ms Page said.
Ms Page, a former NRL commissioner, and her husband Gerry Harvey have long been heavily involved in rugby league.
Harvey Norman sponsored the NRL State of Origin series for 15 years to 2012. The retailer continues to back the NRL’s Women in League round and the Indigenous All Stars pre-season match.
Ms Page said she was inspired to back Auburn Giants after being approached by the club’s founder, Amna Karra-Hassan, at The Daily Telegraph’s Fair Go For The West gala dinner last year.
“This girl is one of the most impressive girls I’ve come across — I love doers,’’ Ms Page said, adding she was also “blown away” by the community work being undertaken by the GWS Giants.
Under the deal Harvey Norman will help the team hire a professional coach, get better access to equipment and create a pathway to help talented teenagers move to the elite level.
“Everyone on the team is over the moon,’’ Ms Karra-Hassan, 26, who played her first game of AFL just five years ago, said.
Seventeen senior female AFL teams play across two divisions in Sydney, while the number of women playing across Australia grew by 15 per cent last year to 195,000.
Mr McLachlan said he hoped the Auburn Giants’ development would help the AFL realise its goal of establishing an elite national women’s competition by 2017.
Ms Page said the company’s Auburn store franchisees would be heavily involved in attracting more people to local games: “You don’t just hand over a cheque and walk away — that does no good.
“I’m sure, from the AFL’s point of view, they want to feel Harvey Norman is part of the family.’’