Women in League: Cathy King
Cathy King grew up in the house her great-grandfather built in the Eastern Suburbs heartland of Bronte Beach and says there isn't much she wouldn't do to nurture the young men who've come through the Roosters system over the years – though she once had to draw the line at babysitting pet snakes.
The Roosters executive assistant is one of many women in rugby league who are unsung heroes to those who know them.
And for all the lengths she's gone to to help and mentor numerous rugby league players over the years, it is the currently maturing crop of once-troubled young stars who bring a tear of pride to her eye.
King took an administrative role at Easts Leagues back in the early 1990s and worked there for a decade before moving into a full-time role at the Roosters where she eventually moved into her current role as an executive assistant looking after the coach, CEO and recruitment manager.
Showing her all-round skills and value to the club, King also took over the vacant football manager responsibilities in 2010-11 in a move she says broadened her understanding of the sport.
"In 2010-11 we didn't have a football manager so the role became executive assistant/football manager, so that was pretty unusual for a female to be a footy manager at a club," King tells NRL.com.
"That gave me a great understanding of the game and even better understanding of how it works."
King praises the culture at the club where she says the female office staff representation has grown from just two when she started to almost 15 now – around half the total. But even back in the early days King says she never felt disadvantaged in terms of opportunities because she was female.
"It is a male dominated sport, however I'm very fortunate here at the Roosters to work with some incredible management and coaches that have allowed myself and the other girls to perform their roles where it hasn't been an issue for us," she says.
"For me it doesn't come down to gender, it's just who's the right person for the job and that's why I've loved it so much, that's what the Roosters are about. They've embraced having women here."
King says she is "blessed" to be in the role she is – and given the choice of having any job in the world, wouldn't make a change from where she is now.
"I'm born and bred Eastern suburbs, lived in Bronte all my life with my family. My family were always Roosters supporters," she says.
"We've been in our house since 1905… My great grandfather built the house that we're in at Bronte Beach.
"If I had a choice of doing what I could do anywhere, any job in the world [I wouldn't change it], I'm just lucky it's landed this way, it's just worked out."
Reflecting on her time at the club and working closely with so many players who have come through the system, King says the fact the club has a smallishjunior base has meant many young players fly in after leaving their support bases at home and need some extra coddling.
"We're a family club and we don't have a big junior base so that means a lot of our players fly in and out. We've tried to make it like a home here for everybody," King says.
"We have people's kids coming in, we try and take the pressure off the players. There's lots of different things that have happened over the time you don't expect to happen. We look after people's babies during the day or go out and do things with them.
"There's pretty much nothing we won't do for them, we're here as a support for them."
King laughs recalling the one instance she had to say 'no' to a player – former Cowboys and Maroons hooker John Doyle, who spent the 2006 season at Bondi.
"Many years ago there was one player whose name was John Doyle and he came in and asked if we could look after his snakes!" King laughs.
"That's a true story, he arrived at the office with his snakes. That was probably the one thing we won't do."
Kings says one of the most gratifying parts of the job is when former players come back in and want to say hello, or when players who may have left end up staying at the club because of how welcome they were made to feel.
"The best part for us, it's really nice when the players do come back in, they want to say hello. They say 'we were always really well looked after at the Roosters'. If I can make a difference – when it comes to contract time if the difference between someone coming and staying is the way they were looked after, then I've done my job," King says.
There are plenty of players who she is proud to have been involved with but nominates the current crop of four young leaders as ones she is particularly proud of.
"I've been able to see four young boys that started here when they were 16 – Mitchell Pearce, Mitchell Aubusson, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Jake Friend – they've been here since they were 16 years old and I've watched those guys grow and develop and play over 200 games for the club," she says.
"I'm really proud of that and I've been lucky to be part of the journey."
While there have been no shortage of highlights in her two decades at the club, King says the club's 2013 Grand Final win is a standout.
"Even though I didn't run on the field they all made me feel part of it and we all worked hard together. It was a special time," King says.
"The group of people that we had there that had worked so hard after having two really lean years and going through what we went through – that grand final was just rewards for those boys in particular that I just mentioned but everyone that worked hard so that was an incredibly special time.
"For me that's been really special because they're wonderful people and to be able to share that with them and see the way they've grown and developed into great young men, that's what my job's all about."
This article first appeared on NRL.COM