The two NRL players whose reunion kiss went viral after the inaugural womens’ State of Origin match last month have opened up about the emotional moment.
The viral photo of players Karina Brown, who played for the Queensland side, and Vanessa Foliaki, who played for New South Wales, was posted to the NRL’s social media accounts after the match in Sydney.
Replying to one commenter who suggested there would be “public outrage if two blokes kissed exactly like that after an Origin,” the NRL’s Facebook moderator defiantly replied, “Welcome to 2018… can’t wait for you to join us!”
Now Brown and Foliaki – who played for opposing sides in the match – have talked about the week’s worth of separation ahead of the clash that was behind the on-field kiss.
“I live with Vanessa, so I see her every single day and kiss her every single day,” Brown explained, writing for Players Voice.
“Seven days without her – me in the Queensland camp, her with NSW – was a long time.
“It’s funny, because that’s just a normal moment for Ness and I, and for our friends and family.
“I feel really fortunate to have been born in a time where I could do that; be myself and not have to worry about who was watching me. I just felt comfortable kissing my girlfriend.
“Origin is a tough, emotional time for us. We’re both passionate about our states and we take it very seriously. I was Queensland captain this year.
“To barely speak for a whole week, to have nearly a hatred for each other — purely in terms of the state we’re playing for — it takes a toll.
“So, to finally see her afterwards was very emotional. I was really proud of her achievement, winning the first official women’s State of Origin game, even though it came at my side’s expense.
“It’s a funny set of feelings to process.”
Brown said she thinks a time when such a photo is considered normal and doesn’t spark a reaction isn’t far away.
“I think it was good for the world to see, to show how far we’ve come as a society. Yet also to show that we’ve still got some way to go. Not all the feedback was positive,” she said.
“For some people, it’s still a shock. I guess the more we can get it out there, that it’s OK to be who you are, it won’t be a shock anymore. It’ll just be normal. It is normal.
“I look forward to the day where my moment with Vanessa is just a regular post-match photo. And I don’t think we’re far off it.”
Foliaki said she was initially “shocked” to see the photo because same-sex relationships aren’t as widely accepted in Tongan culture and her family had received negative backlash from some parts of their community.
“It was tough for me at the beginning. In my culture, that’s not accepted,” Foliaki wrote for Players Voice.
“My family copped some backlash from the Tongan community. I didn’t like that. But I think things have calmed down a lot now.
“Mum and dad just said that they needed time to take it all in. It was hard for them, when no one was expecting the photo and then suddenly it was just out there for everyone to see.
“They were a bit overwhelmed. So was I.”
But Foliaki said she was happpy to receive messages of support from people who were inspired by the viral moment.
“We were getting messages from random people who wrote to us and said, ‘We’ve been going through the same thing and it’s nice to see athletes at your level come out and say that it’s OK,’” she wrote.
“It’s helped a lot of people, which is good. That’s what we want to do.
“If a photo can help you be yourself and come out to your parents, then we’ve done our job. I didn’t realise how many people it had touched, and how many people there are out there who are still unable to come out to their parents — or anybody.
“It was nice to hear from them and to give them hope.”