By Joshua Wells
THE National Rugby League (NRL) announced a ground breaking women’s league will debut in 2018 and officials are confident the City of Whittlesea could become a breeding ground for female talent.
Mernda Dragons Rugby League Club Female Pathway coordinator Matt Sheens is confident the announcement of the new league could lead to a boost in participation numbers.
He said girls could now aspire to play for Australia at the Women’s Rugby League World Cup in 2021 or play for Melbourne Storm in the next few years.
“Obviously it provides a real line of sight and a pathway for all girls and women who are interested in rugby league,” he said.
“They have a chance to play professionally and we won’t lose those talented players to other sports, so it is very exciting for women’s rugby league and girls in Victoria.
“From what I know, the Whittlesea area has a huge Melbourne Storm following and is one of the strongest supporter bases for the club.
“There is a growing interest in schools and there is a chance to get a foothold in junior rugby league.”
The new structure will allow NRLVIC women to represent their state at a weekend tournament against South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory to form a combined squad.
From there, the representative side will take on powerhouses like Queensland before filtering players into NRL Women’s clubs prior to the NRL finals in 2018.
Up to 40 players will then be contracted by the Australian Rugby League.
NRLVIC General Manager Brent Silva said Melbourne already had a strong women’s league and was confident they could represent the state at the highest level.
“We have had a women’s first grade competition for three years and now we have this pathway,” he said.
“Our female players have the chance to represent Victoria… and there is a genuine chance for those players to represent the state and maybe pull on the Storm and [Australian] Jillaroos jersey one day.”