RUGBY LEAGUE: Family’s triple treat

FRONT-ROW SEAT: From left, sisters Julie and Emma Young with sister-in-law Bec yesterday. Picture Natalie GronoNEWCASTLE sisters Julie and Emma Young and sister-in-law Bec hope their selection in Australia’s Jillaroos will help raise the profile of women’s rugby league and encourage more girls to play the game.
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The three were selected in the national squad after representing NSW in a State of Origin series in Queensland last month, and they will fly the region’s flag at the Women’s World Cup in Leeds in July.

For 31-year-old Bec and 27-year-old Julie, it will be their second time in the green-and-gold after they represented the Jillaroos on a tour of Samoa in 2011.

Emma, 24, has earned her first cap after stand-out performances for NSW and the Indigenous All Stars this year.

‘‘We were all holding each other crying, because when they named the team we weren’t named together,’’ she said. ‘‘It was one at the start, one in the middle and one at the end, so we didn’t know if we were all going to get in or not. So it’s very exciting.’’

Julie said Emma followed the same representative path as her two relatives.

‘‘In 2011, Bec and I played Indigenous All Stars, NSW and made the Aussie side, and Emma’s done the same thing this year,’’ Julie said.

Knights prop Korbin Sims’s sister Ruan was also named in the Australian team.

Bec, a prop, is married to Central Newcastle and former Knights forward Michael Young. Emma plays in the front or second row, and Julie is a hooker or utility back.

On the eve of this weekend’s annual ‘‘Women in League’’ round, in which all National Rugby League clubs acknowledge and celebrate the many roles women play in the game, Julie would like to see more attention paid to those who play.

‘‘You love the fact that they’ve brought in the Women in League round, which is good to have that recognition there,’’ she said.

‘‘But I definitely feel it’s more towards the supporting role of mothers and sisters and wives and volunteers, as opposed to women who actually play the sport.’’

‘‘There’s a lot of effort that you put in, and you do get recognition from those that know about it, but a lot of people just aren’t aware that we play the sport.’’

According to figures issued by the Australian Rugby League Commission, there was a 20per cent increase in female player registrations from 2011 (4814) to 2012 (5801).

Julie, Emma and Bec play for Maitland Pickers in a Sydney-based competition.

‘‘Maitland have been really supportive, but we haven’t got to play yet this year because we’ve been away at camps,’’ Emma said.

The lure of a world cup and the possibility of playing alongside Bec and Emma convinced Julie to fight back from reconstructive knee surgery last year.

‘‘It was hard, because I’d never had an injury before, so when I did my knee last July I was a bit nervous,’’ Julie said.

A mother of two, Emma is the youngest of 11 Young siblings.

Emma and Julie reckon they were destined to play rugby league, having grown up with eight brothers who all played.

‘‘Rugby league is a part of our family,’’ Emma said.

‘‘All my brothers played, and I always wanted to play, even though my mum didn’t really want me to play. But I kept pushing and asking and she gave in.’’

Julie said the Young siblings played some memorable backyard games growing up in Sydney’s south-west, and later in Wangi Wangi.

‘‘Mum and Dad used to coach and manage teams down at Claymore Panthers, back a long time ago when our older brothers were playing, so it’s been a follow-through from there, and the family’s always been very supportive,’’ Julie said.

‘‘Obviously Mum and Grandma think, ‘Oh no, you’re going to get hurt’, but they think that with the boys as well, not just the girls.’’