Pioneering former rugby league referee visits the Museum of Wigan Life

A pioneering former rugby league referee visited the Museum of Wigan Life last week for a tour of the rugby league exhibition and to discuss how she can work closely with the town in the build-up to the World Cup this Autumn.
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Julia Lee was the first woman to referee in men's Rugby League during the 1980s and is leading a project called ‘Life with the Lionesses,’ which aims to celebrate the history of females in the sport and inspire future generations.

At the museum, she met with Wigan and Leigh Rugby League Community Foundations as well representatives from local authority Arts and Heritage Services.

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She said: “It was brilliant to be able to share the aspirations of the project with all the key partners in Wigan.”

Julia Lee was the first woman to referee in men's Rugby LeagueJulia Lee was the first woman to referee in men's Rugby League
Julia Lee was the first woman to referee in men's Rugby League

“The Wigan Museum of Life celebrates rugby league diversity in all communities in Wigan and Leigh and we are really looking forward to working together to build on their great work.

“I am really keen to develop a collaborative approach which ensures that we link with planned activities around the Rugby League World Cup and other activities linked to the town.”

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The project will include: interviews and podcasts by former Lionesses, intergenerational workshops, a permanent archive of Rugby League memorabilia, and a touring exhibition.

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Julia has recently gifted a collection of her own Rugby League memorabilia to the Rugby Football League Archive at Heritage Quay, the archives service for the University of Huddersfield.

These items include a signed England Wildcats rugby shirt, scrapbooks, photographs and a rugby ball signed by the Great Britain Lionesses who toured New Zealand in 1998

The formation of a special collection of women’s rugby league material in the Rugby Football League (RFL) archive at Heritage Quay is being funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the Life with the Lionesses’ project.

Julia is also keen for other former women RL players and supporters to get involved.

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“We are trying to get in contact with previous Lionesses and women who have supported rugby league throughout their lives,” she added.

“If you have any items of interest you might like to share, or stories of playing or coaching, please get in touch with us and help to raise the profile of the women’s game.”

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