I never used to like Women in League round. I’d say that you couldn’t just throw pink on a jersey and say it was for women, but now I couldn’t agree less. For me, as a player in a local women’s competition, a female hopeful journalist and a Rabbitohs member, Women in League round is about appreciating the milestones of the past few years. Even just a few years ago, I had little to no female rugby league reporters to influence me and didn’t know women’s rugby league was even a thing. Now I’m studying with girls who say they want to be the next Yvonne Sampson, and watching girls I’ve played against be selected by NRL teams.
This year, for more than just me, the NRL’s annual Women in League round is more important than ever.
Every year we celebrate the growing role of female spectators, journalists, match officials, club officials and players within the NRL, and reflect on how far we’ve come. This year, we have a new milestone: The Women’s NRL.
In just four short weeks, women’s teams will compete for an NRL Premiership. While this year it’s much smaller and shorter than the men’s, it’s a stepping stone that’s been anticipated for a long time. After years of growth and work, there is finally a top-tier competition for women under the NRL banner. There has been so many changes and new opportunities for women in rugby league over the last few years, in all aspects of the game, but this is possibly the most anticipated step.
We’ve reached a point now where this competition is a reality, and will only become bigger every year. Young girls have their own competition and stars to look up to, and women now have representative and NRL teams to aspire to play for. We now have paid female players who get recognized in the public for their skill and dedication.
While there are only four teams in this season of the NRLW, women’s role in rugby league is growing right around the country. The amount of female players in smaller competitions is growing by the year, and there are now more competitions than ever before. More and more girls are getting into refereeing and match officiating as well, with Belinda Sleeman and Kasey Badger becoming household names. behind the scenes, we now have more women involved in NRL and local clubs, as coaches, trainers, medical staff, volunteers, board members and CEOs.
People may argue that Women in League round is outdated, that having a round dedicated to women is the opposite of equality, but women’s role in rugby league has come so far, and it’ll only get bigger from here.