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Jul 26, 2021

Elizabeth ‘Libby’’ Nankivell made history earlier this year when she was appointed Vice President of Queensland Rugby Union, becoming the first woman to hold the position in 139 years of the state’s governing rugby body.

In this podcast, the ‘self-confessed rugby tragic’ talks to Claire Braund about her passion for the game, and how that has translated into a meaningful career on rugby boards.

Libby acquired her love of the game from her late father and Darling Downs broccoli farmer Paddy O’Brien, who was a referee and referee coach who worked with Queensland Country Rugby, Queensland Rugby Referee Associations and Australian Rugby Union. 

As a girl, she’d run round the ovals collecting cans and spend all day wandering around the rugby fields. By the time she started school Libby knew all the positions and rules of the game.

Libby established Townsville women’s Rugby Union at university, also winning a gold medal at the 1994 University Games – the first appearance of women’s rugby at the event. She then followed in her father’s footsteps by becoming a referee and winning the Women in Sport referee/umpire of the year in 1998.

It was after attending a Women on Boards Women in Sport conference that Libby decided to start on her sport board journey.

After applying for “a bunch of different sport boards” Libby got a gig with Australian Schools Rugby Union and was also on the Australian Schools Foundation Board. She was then offered the Vice President role and now co-chairs the board with Garrick Morgan.

Libby says one of the biggest challenges for women in the boardroom, and on the field, is being accepted and respected. She says her refereeing experience is invaluable in the boardroom and has helped her develop a thick skin. Her dream role, she tells WOB, would be on a board with Rugby Australia and World Rugby. Certainly worth a try!

LinkedIn: Libby Nankivell | Claire Braund (host)

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