As part of celebrating International Women’s Day, Deaf Sports Australia would like to echo the IWD 2023 #EmbraceEquity campaign theme by placing a spotlight on the resounding example of Rona Lazo-Treloggen of Gunning NSW. She was recently awarded the Upper Lachlan Shire 2023 Sportsperson of the Year award in January this year for her tremendous contributions to being a team player in several mainstream and deaf sports. These sports include futsal, volleyball, rugby, cricket, and chess – Rona has been involved in these sports on local, national, and international levels.

Rona says her local communities, including her NSW Rural Fire Service (Gunning Fish River), have put forward her name towards the Upper Lachlan Shire Council for the 2023 Australia Day Awards. She was then shortlisted and invited to attend the award ceremonies in Gunning and Crookwell.

“When I came to Crookwell, I saw the Auslan interpreter who explained that she was there because the Council considered inclusivity purposes. It was not until afterwards that she revealed knowing I was going to be awarded! I originally brought my husband along to interpret for me!” Rona smiled, adding that she thought she’d just come along for the ride, have breakfast there and then go home shortly afterwards.

The aim of the International Women’s Day is to get the world talking about “Why equal opportunities aren’t enough”. People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action. With this in mind, barriers in sports are no stranger to Rona. Rona shares her experience in Sydney 2018. She attended the World Deaf Rugby Sevens and represented Australia on the field, playing against England; this was her first time playing the sport on an international level against other deaf and hard of hearing players.

When Rona returned home, she decided to upskill her playing experience by trying to sign up for women’s rugby at a local university. They responded with concerns in not being able to provide seamless communication access. Rona didn’t let that hiccup stop her; she then contacted Wests Lions Rugby who gladly accepted her registration, regardless of her deafness. “The coach, the team manager and I communicated through pen and paper, and then I taught them some basic signs. We got on really well after that,” said Rona.

Rona now plays at the Hall Bushrangers R.F.C, which is much closer to home, and added that they’re very inclusive. Both the coach and the team there know how to sign to Rona with ease.

Additionally, the Australian Deaf Rugby (ADRU) organisation, a member of Deaf Sports Australia, is preparing to go to the World Rugby Sevens Cup in Cordoba, Argentina next month.

Rona is appointed Captain for the women’s team and is honoured to take on the leadership role to support her team she call a family. “I also play in the hooker position. If my team run, I will run with them. If they make mistakes, I’ll be there to listen. It doesn’t matter if we lose or win, I just want my team to enjoy their rugby experience. We can work and play good together, and we really respect each other.”

Rona explained that this opportunity could not have happened without the selflessness of a passionate volunteer – ADRU women’s coach Lisa Vogel. “Lisa empowers us to become trailblazers for deaf female players of future generations. We could not have done this without her kindness, care and support.”

Lisa Vogel has undoubtedly given up many hours of travelling, trialling, recruiting and coaching girls and ladies across states and territory, as well as help fundraise for the Australian Deaf Rugby women’s team. The women’s team is still seeking donations to cover travel costs and other expenses – donations can be sent via the Australian Sports Foundation website, with subject titled, “Supporting Deaf Rugby Australia”.

Rona is currently looking to become a referee for women’s rugby when she returns from her Argentina Tour.

Media contact:
Lauren Townsend

ADRU Women’s Rugby contact:
Lisa Vogel

More information on IWD:
Contact Australian Deaf Rugby: