Female rugby league players from under 6s all the way up to opens. (ABC News: Stephanie Dalzell)
Women’s rugby league has taken a giant step towards a fully fledged national competition, with New South Wales and Queensland joining forces to promote the game from juniors to the elites.
There will now be an unbroken pathway from under 6’s through to open representatives in both states, and NSW Rugby League chief executive Todd Greenberg said it would increase the standard of women’s rugby league in the country.
“You don’t have long-term sustainability unless you have a pathway from the bottom all the way to the top,” he said.
At the moment, girls are forced to move away from rugby league in their teenage years, as there are limited competitive opportunities between the ages of 12 and 17.
Jillaroos player Corban McGregor, 23, said the changes would keep talented women in the game.
“It’s so exciting, it’s really awesome to have a genuine pathway that’s unbroken so instead of girls having to stop playing for those couple of years, to be able to play through all the way from the 6s to opens,” she said.
“It’s really awesome and it’s only going to better the game for women.”
AFL leads the way with its women’s competition
Corban McGregor, 23, from the Jillaroos and Anisa Tokabobo, 6, learn a thing or two from each other. (ABC News: Stephanie Dalzell)
Unlike NRL, the AFL has had strong state-based competitions for decades, meaning there has always been a strong pool of talent to build the AFLW.
The NSW and Queensland rugby league competitions for women are not as developed, so at this stage, the NRL would not be able to implement a similar model.
NSWRL Football general manager BJ Mather said building a healthy pathway through the state competitions would result in a higher standard and quality of competition.
“Ultimately we are building towards a state-based semi-professional women’s competition in the next three years to provide players the opportunity to get used to playing that level of competition regularly,” Mr Mather said.
Earlier this year, Mr Greenberg said the league was focused on building the women’s game from the ground up, with hopes of having some form of national competition in place in the next three to five years.
He said the NRL would not rush a women’s league despite the success of AFLW.
The states have partnered up with major sponsor Harvey Norman to expand the game.
Harvey Norman CEO Katie Page said the company was committed to supporting the development of female player pathways at all levels of Rugby League.
“The next generation of female players, those coming through these newly formed ranks, will take Women’s Rugby League to the next level,” she said.