Mary’s Wonder Women: Update on the NRL Women’s Comp

This article was first written for and published by The Roar

This Sunday, the tenth edition of the W-League will come to a close when the Grand Final is contested between Sydney FC and Melbourne City.

Sydney booked their place in the decider after defeating the Newcastle Jets 3-2 in the semis, while Melbourne upset the reigning premiers, the Brisbane Roar, 2-0.

I’m often asked why I don’t write more about the W-League, particularly given the Matildas are taking women’s football to international highs never seen before.

Sam Kerr is now a household name and there is a genuine sense of excitement around this team, particularly ahead of the upcoming Asia Cup.

Sam Kerr Matildas Australian Football 2017

The Matildas (Photo by Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images)

One reason I don’t write more about the W-League is because women like Ann Odong and the team at The Women’s Game exist. They are passionate about football and can certainly cover the game far more genuinely and authentically than I can.

But the main reason is because, most of the time, football is not on my radar.

Around 90 per cent of my twitter feed is centred around sport. I often joke that if I am unaware that a sporting event is on, then the marketing teams at the governing bodies aren’t doing their jobs. But there is a kernel of truth to that joke.

When writing the opening paragraphs for this article, I had to look up who was going to be playing against Sydney FC in the final, because the information had not reached me via social media.

That is a problem.

Football is strong in this country. Devoted fans mean that an A-League derby between Sydney FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers can attract over 36,000, while figures released by AusPlay last year showed football tops participation rates, with 1.1 million adults and children playing the sport.

But in an overcrowded sporting market, it’s not good enough for the FFA to simply rely on these football devotees. They need to make sure the A-League and W-League are front of mind for sports fans.

I’ve seen very little promotion about the W-League and A-League this summer. I receive most of my football news from key influencers in the space like Ann Odong, Daniel Hanney, Danielle Warby, Lucy Zelic, Heather Reid, Sarah Groube and Samantha Lewis. Canberra United also do an outstanding job ensuring their brand remains visible on social media.

But there needs to be a relentless machine backing these people up with content from the governing body.

There is tremendous talent in our W-League competition that deserves promotion and celebration.

If you are based in Sydney, make sure you head out to Allianz Stadium to watch the game. If you can’t get there, you can tune in live on Fox Sports and SBS on Sunday afternoon, with the game kicking off at 5pm.

Congratulations to Lynne Anderson, who is the newly elected chairperson at the Canterbury Bulldogs, having defeated incumbent Ray Dib and his ticket.

Former premiership-winning player and coach (and Lynne’s husband) Chris Anderson, former players Steve Price, Steve Mortimer and Paul Dunn, and John Ballesty and John Khoury make up the rest of the board.

Lynne brings a deep, personal connection with the Bulldogs, being the daughter of Peter ‘Bullfrog’ Moore. Lynne also has a wealth of experience, having held positions such as managing director of Repucom Pty Ltd and is the CEO of the Australian Paralympic Committee.

The Dogs go into season 2018 in an almost unprecedented position – new board, new CEO and new coach. I hope for some stability at Belmore this year and am confident with people like Lynne, Andrew Hill and Dean Pay involved, they will achieve far more.

Watch this space
Applications to have a women’s team in the first year of the NRL women’s competition are due today.

You may have read that there is limited interest from clubs and, at this stage, the North Queensland Cowboys, Gold Coast Titans and Canberra Raiders will not submit bids, while the Melbourne Storm are unlikely to.

In Sydney, the Manly Sea Eagles, Penrith Panthers, Wests Tigers and Canterbury Bulldogs are also unlikely to put in bids.

I don’t want rugby league fans to confuse this lack of bidding as a lack of interest in women’s rugby league. The harsh reality is that for many clubs, the women’s competition being announced last December meant budgets had already been drawn up for the upcoming season and the cost of an additional team may have been too much.

The bidding process means clubs have seen the infrastructure required to have a women’s team. Now that they know what the expectations are, the clubs can begin working toward forecasting for inclusion in season 2019.

As for which teams will be included in the first iteration of the competition – watch this space.

I’m predicting that it will include the Cronulla Sharks, St George Illawarra Dragons, Newcastle Knights, Brisbane Broncos and New Zealand Warriors.