NEW Sky Sports pundit Jodie Cunningham has admitted there was some apprehension ahead of the announcement that she will play a larger role in the broadcaster’s production this season.
Cunningham has appeared as a pundit on several occasions already, but Sky have confirmed that she and former Leeds Rhinos halfback Courtney Winfield-Hill will play a more permanent role in their commentary and analysis team this season.
Some of these nerves were added to by the recent high-profile tirade against female commentators in men’s football by former footballer Joey Barton. But for Cunningham, Rugby League is the perfect sport to allow everyone to get involved across the board.
“It is really exciting, but it is also nerve-wracking and quite daunting,” Cunningham told League Express.
“I was dreading the announcement because I really didn’t want the negativity that might come with it.
“It’s tough for women and I’ve seen comments that ‘if she can take 20 hits from the Super League men and get back up and keep going, then I’ll start to listen to her opinion’.
“If that’s the justification for whether you can or cannot talk about the game, then no I can’t do it. But equally I shouldn’t have to, there are plenty of coaches who understand the game incredibly well that didn’t play at the top.
“When you’re brought in as a one-time guest pundit it’s easier to ignore those comments and move on. But now it’s going to be more permanent there is more pressure on me to make sure I am up to the standard that people watching at home expect and deserve.
“Everyone in Rugby League has always been really supportive of me, but there is someone who has recently galvanised a lot of hatred for women in men’s sporting spaces.
“I know it’s out there, but thankfully it’s not a major problem in Rugby League and hopefully people, young girls especially, can see how great the women we have working in our sport are and can see that there is space for them in it.”