Talent combine, NRL bids for women’s competition
THE NRL has announced its own women's competition will start in 2018.
The round-robin tournament will run alongside the NRL finals series, primarily to be played as double-header curtain-raisers to the men's matches.
It will involve up to six teams, linked to existing NRL clubs, which will be invited to bid for their involvement.
"Initially we will have up to six women's teams linked to NRL clubs with the women's teams having their own dedicated staff and resources and each player receiving match payments," NRL boss Todd Greenberg said at Wednesday's announcement.
"Shortly our NRL clubs will be invited to put forward their plans to be part of this inaugural national women's series in 2018.
"And I can say from earlier reports and from speaking to CEOs as recently as yesterday, this will be a very serious and competitive biding process."
The decider of the women's competition will be played as a feature match on NRL grand final day.
There'll also be a stand-alone State of Origin match played mid-season.
And in an exciting development for the game, a talent combine will be set up to identify the next generation of stars as a key pillar in the game's elite pathways.
The concept, similar to what they do in the lead up to draft day in the AFL and NFL, will introduce a new approach to talent scouting as clubs try to identify the next big star of the women's game.
A national championships for junior players will also provide a key pathway to the elite set-up.
"The national championships and the talent combines will provide our states and our coaches with the chances to identify a new generation of players that will come through those ranks," Greenberg said.
"Importantly, whilst we develop our elite competitions we will continue to build our national championships carnival and a talent combine.
"We recognise the need to continue to engage and strengthen our women's teams and those wanting to experience and play rugby league.
"And importantly without these players we cannot continue to expand our game and deliver the match opportunities at the higher and elite levels."
Greenberg also announced that 40 players would be offered Jillaroos contracts, which would include match payments.
"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," he 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 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."