By George Clarke/AAP/NRL
The NRLW will expand to a 10-team tournament in 2023 after Cronulla, North Queensland, Canberra and Wests Tigers were awarded licences for the competition on Wednesday.
As first reported by AAP last month, the NRL has opted to take a more aggressive approach with expansion of the women’s game.
The tournament, which started in 2018 with four clubs, added two further teams earlier this year.
The NRL had initially planned to go to eight teams in 2023 and then 10 in 2024, but has opted to fast-track the competition’s growth.
National Rugby League CEO Andrew Abdo said the expansion of the NRLW Premiership to a 10-team competition was a watershed moment for the sport.
“Today is another exciting milestone in the growth of Women’s Premiership,” Mr Abdo said.
“The Sharks and the Tigers have strong teams in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership, and the Raiders and the Cowboys already have strong participation bases.
“We will continue to work with all NRL Clubs on the plans for further expansion beyond 2023 and the right time for each Club to potentially enter the NRW Premiership.”
Mr Abdo acknowledged and thanked major partners for their investment including naming rights partner Telstra and broadcasters Nine and Fox Sports.
Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Mr Peter V’landys AM said the growth of the women’s game was a priority for the Commission, from grassroots to elite, and that all four teams would add significantly to the new competition in 2023.
“We have a blueprint for investing in the women’s game at all levels. We have seen from with the quality of the 2021 NRLW Premiership and the tremendous growth in female participation that we have capacity for sustainable growth,” Mr V’landys said.
“The Commission have again demonstrated that the women’s game is a strategic priority. The quality of the Club submissions was excellent. The Commission had always left the door open to expand to a 10-team competition based on the quality of the applicants, and we have seen that come through both in the success of the 2021 Premiership and the quality and applications made by Clubs.”