NRL could fast-track NRLW club expansion to 10 teams by 2023
Posted On May 5, 2022
The NRL could expedite the expansion of the women’s competition with officials seriously considering jumping straight from six to 10 teams next year.
The NRLW could expand by four teams next year if all bidders are ready
North Queensland, Canberra, Cronulla, and Wests Tigers have all lodged applications
The proposal will be discussed at an ARLC meeting next week
Just two months after announcing a two-staged approach to expansion, the NRL is examining the merits of accelerating that process.
Under the plan announced in March, the NRL would introduce two teams next year to take the competition to eight sides, before adding a further two in 2024.
However, the ARL Commission has since asked about the feasibility of going straight to 10, with the belief there was enough talent and player numbers to accelerate the expansion.
The decision would likely depend on whether an additional four teams would be ready in 14 months’ time, with the NRL seeing no point in holding back if that is the case.
Assisting that prospect are applications from North Queensland and Canberra, where a strong base of players already exist outside the current pool.
“We must invest at all levels of the game. We’ve had a terrific response from clubs and we are also seeing interest from growth areas where there is already strong participation as opposed to movement of players.”
The proposal is expected to be discussed at an ARLC meeting next week, before a final decision is made on licences by July.
The Cowboys, Raiders, Cronulla and Wests Tigers have also lodged bids to join the competition from 2023, with the two Sydney clubs boasting strong NSW premiership sides.
Canterbury, South Sydney and Penrith have also made applications to join the league, but those are believed to be with a preference for 2024.
The Warriors would also be a preferred option after their COVID-19-enforced exit, but it is unclear whether they want to return.
The NRL will pay close attention to depth and quality of players in NSW and Queensland state leagues before making a final decision, with a goal of eventually turning them into feeder competitions.
Under the current system, players feature in both the NRLW and club competition, but the longer top-tier season could change that.
“The growth of (state) competitions has allowed us to grow a bit faster, and there has been strong interest from the clubs for a licence.”
It comes after the NRL increased the salary for this year’s end-of-season NRLW competition, prompting a likely increase in player movement.
Wooden-spooners Newcastle are believed to have already signed Jillaroos star Hannah Southwell while making an approach to Brisbane gun Tamika Upton.