While the NRL kicks off this week and local competitions will follow in the next few weeks, players for NRLW and female representative teams are still in preseason and preparing for a big year. 2019 is expected to see changes and growth in women’s rugby league, but with some aspects staying the same. Here’s what we know so far:
2019 NRLW Season
This year’s NRLW will follow the same structure as last years, with the Broncos, Warriors, Roosters and Dragons playing three games each, and the top 2 going into the Grand Final. While the NRL has argued that this a strategy is to not rush the growth of the women’s game and prevent player burn out, many fans believe that the competition could be longer and with more teams. While this takes challenges such as complacency, consistency and peaking out of the game, the NRL has assured that the steady approach is allowing for better training of current and upcoming players, and thus better safety and quality.
State of Origin
After last years success, it is no surprise to fans that the women’s State of Origin is remaining a stand-alone match this year. Last year NSW edged out QLD 16-10 in what was a close fight for the inaugural shield. Over 6000 fans turned out in the middle of winter to watch the match at North Sydney Oval, and after the attention that was brought by the NRL this year, it can be expected to be even bigger. the match will be held June 21st at North Sydney Oval.
Downer World Cup 9’s
Women’s rugby league will also be showcased on the international stage this year, with 12 men’s teams and 4 women’s teams to compete in the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9’s. While the nations competing have not been announced, it is expected that Australia and New Zealand will enter both men’s and women’s teams. Held in Western Sydney in October, it is expected to showcase a shorter, faster version of rugby league and help to develop the game.
Pathways from Local Rugby League
After it’s successful introduction last year, 2019 will see the continuation of the NRL’s Pathways Program, aiming to help train women from local competitions into representative football. Around the country, the NRL will hold Talent ID days, where girls can trial for training programs, as well as numerous representative levels for opens and under 18’s, ranging from regional teams to the National Championships in June. Last year, this pathway saw numerous new player introduced into the NRLW, such as Shakiah Tungai and Brydie Parker, and many more can be expected to shine this year.