Bigger women's comp back on RL agenda

·2-min read

Plans for an extended and expanded NRLW could be revealed as soon as Friday with the competition set to be high on the agenda of an ARL Commission meeting.

League bosses met with eight players from the women's advisory group including Jillaroos captain Ali Brigginshaw on Wednesday and promised action soon.

The status of the league has sat in limbo for several months after it remained at three rounds last year rather than doubling to six due to COVID-19.

It's expected the length could be doubled at the very minimum for 2021, with the four founding teams of Brisbane, Sydney Roosters, St George Illawarra and Warriors.

However it's not the only possible option.

The expansion of the competition to at least six teams is a live possibility for this year, or else a timetable for 2022 or 2023 expansion will likely be revealed.

If immediate expansion was to come both Gold Coast and Parramatta appear as early front-runners, with both boasting sound junior systems.

Parramatta reaffirmed their interest to AAP on Thursday, while Titans CEO Stephen Mitchell has made clear the game needs a long-term plan.

"We need a firm position on the women's game and an appetite to invest in it," Mitchell said.

"We need to make a statement around the women's game that says 'we're here, we're here for the long-term and we're genuine investors in it'."

Several other teams have also made applications for women's licences, including Wests Tigers and Newcastle, the latter having confirmed this week they will make it part of their centre of excellence.

The status of the Warriors must also be cleared, given the NRL effectively ran the team last year but is unlikely to do so in 2021.

Mitchell, meanwhile, believes the game needs an even longer-term approach, putting the growth of women on the same level as the men's expansion.

"We could have a strategic goal for 2027 to have a 12-team competition over 16 weeks with semi-professional athletes rewarded accordingly with some pay equity in that space and a genuine broadcast deal," he said.

"We can be a different sport with more equity across the playing group. It will be a powerful statement for our sport moving forward."

More immediately, the founding clubs and players want more clarity as some prepare to play interstate and book annual leave from full-time jobs.

"The sooner we can understand how the competition looks in 2021 and beyond is good not just for us as a club but for the players," Dragons CEO Ryan Webb said.

"They have part-time jobs and need to juggle their work with their careers and personal lives as well. It would be good for them to know what's happening."