The Australian National Rugby League (NRL) has thrown its support behind two female rugby players from opposing teams who kissed after a game, after an image of the embrace prompted criticism.
A photo of Karina Brown, who plays for Queensland, and Vanessa Foliaki, of New South Wales (NSW), was posted to the NRL’s social media accounts after the match in Sydney on Friday.
Foliaki and Brown have been in a relationship since they were chosen to represent the Jillaroos, Australia women’s national rugby league team, in 2014.
The inaugural Women’s State of Origin series, between representatives of Australia’s two states, was lauded as the “first step towards parity” with the men’s game after NSW beat Queensland 16-10.
In response to criticism on social media, the NRL said: “If we can post a [photo] of Cooper Cronk and his wife Tara kissing, then we can share a photo of Karina Brown and Ness Foliaki sharing a moment too.”
One user on Facebook said: “There would be public outrage if two blokes kissed exactly like that after an Origin”, to which the NRL replied: “Welcome to 2018... can’t wait for you to join us!”
Other users drowned out the criticism on social media.
“The NRL owning the nuffie comments after the Women’s State of Origin Post is social media at its absolute best,” said one.
The couple have said the rugby league family “wants us to get married” and that the “coaching staff are supportive”.
“We’re feeling all the love,” they said in a joint interview before the game.
Ahead of the game, the couple told NRL.com they have played against each other on several occasions.
They said the State of Origin match would be “their biggest relationship challenge yet” although it “has never been an issue among their teammates and support staff”.
“Karina saw me across the room. We were drinking at the bar and she decided to shout everyone a drink, have a skolling competition and couldn’t beat me. I smashed her. It started from there,” Foliaki said.