In an industry where gender equality and cultural diversity are increasingly recognised as crucial cornerstones to developing a caring, supportive culture and overall long-term success, there are remarkable leaders who serve as beacons of inspiration for the present and the future years ahead.
Moana Leilua is one of those.
Since arriving at the Melbourne Rebels in 2020 as the Club’s Player Development Manager, Moana Leilua’s leadership and drive to empower players to explore their cultural backgrounds, and celebrate their diversity has been crucial in the Club creating a loving, supportive culture across both men’s and women’s teams, its high-performance and the commercial department.
In April, Leilua’s profound impact for both the Rebels, RUPA and Rugby Australia, would be recognised when she was awarded the prestigious 2023 Capgemini Women in Rugby Leadership Scholarship.
The Women’s Leadership program, which awards 12 scholarships across the globe, began in 2022 and aims to create a pipeline of female leaders in Rugby across the game by helping to develop their leadership skills and training them on the challenges and issues they may face in leadership roles.
Earlier this month, Leilua joined her fellow scholars at Les Fontaines in France for the World Rugby and Capgemini Women in Rugby Leadership summit, where all 12 recipients had the opportunity to connect and develop a support and learning network for the unique challenges and opportunities each inspirational leader faces on a daily basis in their mission to grow the game and create parity across rugby.
Rebels Media caught up with our star Player Development Manager after her extraordinary experience in France.
After being awarded such a prestigious scholarship in April, how did it feel meeting your 11 other scholars in France and attending the Capgemini Women in Rugby Leadership summit earlier this month?
It was a whirlwind of emotions. I was one of 12 recipients and one of just two in the Oceania region. After being awarded this earlier in the year, all 12 of us met this month at the LaFontaine campus in France, where we were able to meet each other, go through a couple of sessions with the Capgemini Executive Team and a number of well respected World Rugby professionals.
It was really great to meet some inspiring women who are doing amazing things in world rugby in different regions such as Africa, Europe, North America and Oceania. Working with like minded professionals in rugby was really insightful. Coming from Australia where we have an abundance of resources compared to those from Brazil or Uganda who don’t have a lot of resources, it was really interesting to hear their perspective and the challenges they face especially around building and growing women’s rugby.
It was very encouraging meeting everyone and forming those close bonds and networks and with the funding and support from Capgemini, I do think it’s going to do wonders for the different unions. When I reflect on what I want to do with my scholarship, it’s primarily impacting our game at the governance level, while continuing to do what I do in the player development space.
How special was it to be surrounded by all these inspiring, change-making women?
They were fierce. Surrounded by like minded people and powerhouse women was incredible. The energy levels were intense, having all of these hearts and minds devoted to seeing our game grow at all levels across the world - from Oceana to Africa. There’s a real sisterhood, where we’re each other's cheerleaders and we’re going to be there to help each other impact rugby’s growth in the women’s space all over the world, which is really special to be a part of.
What learnings did you take away from the summit that you will look to implement at the Melbourne Rebels this year?
Looking back at what I’ve learnt, and what I want to take with me to the Melbourne Rebels this year, I think to my aspirations in the leadership and wellbeing space and also cultural awareness in the Pacific space, because that is who I am and the Oceania region is where I serve, so how can I make the most meaningful change in our region and in Naarm, while also continuing to celebrate our players and our game’s diversity.
I’m also looking to take on one particular project with RUPA that will impact the Melbourne Rebels but also the Super Rugby Pacific Australian Clubs that I think will be of value ticking the wellbeing box and one that speaks to my focus on cultural heritage. It’s a very Pacific program with our professional players, and so I’m getting some strong support from Capgemini and communication on what that will look like in the next 3 months or 6 months when it’s going to be delivered, so that’s something that’s really tangible and something that excites me. I’m in it for the long haul.
Looking back on your beautiful relationship with rugby and your incredible journey from player to leader in the player development and well-being space, have you had the opportunity to sit back and take everything in?
I don’t think I have. I didn’t realise how monumental the award was until it was put on the social media channels with World Rugby, Capgemini and the Melbourne Rebels. The responsibility is huge but I’ve got the shoulders for it. I love the code and I’m really invested in the code in Oceana. My hope is that this scholarship will give me access, and then what I do with that access is up to me. I know hand on heart this is the code I want to serve in and I want to do well by Australian rugby, RUPA and our region here in Oceana.