THE brightest female talent in Country Rugby League (CRL) will have the opportunity to test themselves on a national stage as part of a number of exciting announcements relating to the women’s game made by NRL CEO Todd Greenberg on Wednesday.
A new era in women’s rugby league will begin next year, with the NRL unveiling a program of events covering everything from an NRL Women’s Premiership, stand-alone State of Origin match, a National Championship and Jillaroos international matches.
With almost 50 per cent of all nationally registered female players competing in CRL tackle and tag competitions, the announcement featured a number of exciting initiatives for female participants across regional NSW, including the Upper Hunter.
Ironically, the Muswellbrook Ramettes are tackling the Singleton Greyhounds in the final of the CRL Women’s 9s at Pirtek Park, Singleton, on Friday night; following the Merriwa Magpies and Murrurundi Mavettes fixture.
The CRL will field a side in the new National Championships, which will take place over three days in June and feature more than 120 players from across Australia, along with taking on City in an interstate clash in the lead-up to the Women’s State of Origin.
These initiatives, along with current CRL Women’s Nines competitions, will provide regional players with a direct pathway opportunity from grassroots to elite level football.
CRL will host trials for the country women’s side to take on City and compete in the National Championships in February/March next year.
A new NRL Women’s Premiership will also be launched in 2018, with Greenberg confirming details of the new competition, which will feature up to six teams playing in the lead-up to and during the NRL finals.
The NRL CEO also announced that 40 players would be offered Jillaroos contracts, which would include match payments.
He said the women’s game was the fastest growing participation segment – and the NRL was determined to give female players new opportunities to perform.
“For the first time, there will be a dedicated pathway for our women to follow – from grassroots junior league, to State Competitions, and on to Premiership matches and representative Origin and Test match opportunities,” Greenberg said.
“The women’s game has become an attraction in its own right and anyone who has seen the Jillaroos in action cannot help but be impressed by the skills and athleticism on display.
“The NRL is determined to provide the right channels for women to follow and play rugby league – and today is a great starting point for that program.”
Greenberg said the new competition was scheduled to be played as “double-headers” in the lead up to and during NRL Finals matches, to ensure the women’s teams are given the chance to play on the biggest stage.
He said the new women’s program unveiled on Wednesday would also feature:
– A stand-alone State of Origin match (formerly known as the Interstate Challenge) between New South Wales and Queensland, played during the NRL’s representative weekend in mid-June.
– State League competitions, with Grand Finals to be played as double-headers prior to Women In League Round matches.
– A National Championships Carnival and Talent Combine, congregating the best state talent on a national stage and providing a sequential pathway for female players to progress to the elite level.
– The Jillaroos playing international matches in the Pacific and New Zealand.
The Jillaroos competing in the Commonwealth Games Championship in Redcliffe, ahead of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
In addition, Greenberg said 40 players would receive Jillaroos contracts, which would include payments for matches and participating in a series of high performance camps, as well as access to high performance staff and elite athlete training programs year-round.
“In other words, we are taking the women’s game to a new level,” he said.
Greenberg said he expected the NRL aligned Women’s Premiership to grow as more women signed up to play rugby league – and more players developed the skills to take part in an elite competition.
“We are not going to rush in with a larger competition until we have the numbers to give it the quality it deserves,” he said.
“But I have no doubt that, as more women take up the game, the competition will grow.”
Greenberg said the new program was the result of extensive consultation with clubs, states and the elite women’s playing group.
“What we have come up with is a comprehensive women’s rugby league program, that takes into account balancing personal, work and playing commitments, as well as providing a continuous pathway to participate in local, national and international rugby league year-round,” he said.