ONLINE TROLLS – Footy fans have lashed out at online trolls who falsely claimed women’s rugby league star Joanne Lagona was born a man after seeing a video of her smashing a rival in a tackle.
The 35-year-old from Papua New Guinea has represented her country and starred in rugby union before switching codes to league.
What led to her Troll
Lagona scored PNG’s only try in their 64-6 loss to Australia‘s Prime Minister’s XIII women’s side in September 2022 – but it’s another amazing piece of play from that game that has attracted the trolls’ attention.
Playing at fullback, Lagona smashed Australian forward Zara Canfield when she made a line break, picking her bigger opponent up and driving her into the turf – and some commenters on social media took that as a green light to make hurtful and inaccurate comments about the star.
The Social Media Hate
The video was posted on the girlsrugbyleague TikTok, account, accompanied by a caption alleging Lagona has played in men’s nine-a-side games and saying in part, ‘im [sic] undecided if she is an actual biological women [sic]’.
The caption continues: ‘Why does this matter to me? My daughters! … like fark will i let any biological man, play against any girls/woman team let a lone against any of my daughters.’
The clip was then picked up by American journalist Joel Berry, who is managing editor of the Babylon Bee website, which publishes conservative news satire and has been described as a Christian version of The Onion.
‘Women need to start refusing to play when a trans player is on the field,’ he wrote on the social media platform X.
‘It’s only a matter of time before a woman gets killed from this.’
While Berry found support for his stance, plenty of X users were quick to slam his comments.
The Comment was Slammed
‘Hate to burst your bubble but Rugby is one of the few sports in the world that totally bans trans women from playing in the women’s leagues. Her name is Joanne Lagona and she is a biological woman. She plays for PNG women’s team and is also contracted by a women’s team in Japan,’ one wrote.
‘This player is actually female with superb tackling technique,’ a footy fan added.
‘@CommunityNotes the player is a cis woman, not a trans woman. This is misinformation,’ said a third.
‘Are you kidding? She made a solid tackle. It is a contact sport,’ another wrote.
The Belief International Rugby League Shares
International Rugby League announced in June 2022 that ‘male-to-female (transwomen) players are unable to play in sanctioned women’s international rugby league matches’ until the body had further research so it could implement a more formal policy.
‘The IRL reaffirms its belief that rugby league is a game for all and that anyone and everyone can play our sport,’ the statement said.
‘It is the IRL’s responsibility to balance the individual’s right to participate – a long-standing principle of rugby league and at its heart from the day it was established – against perceived risk to other participants, and to ensure all are given a fair hearing.’
‘Y’all ain’t ever watched rugby before have you? Here’s some more purely female on female hits to give you an idea how normal this is,’ added another commenter, who included a link to more big tackles in women’s rugby.