This article was first written for and published by The Roar.
Tomorrow the NRL makes history, when the inaugural season of the new women’s competition begins.
The competition is made up of four teams – the Sydney Roosters, the St George Illawarra Dragons, the Brisbane Broncos and the New Zealand Warriors.
Each of these teams are made up of 15 marquee players from the Australian Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns squads, with the remainder of the squad made up of local juniors, cross-coders, free agents and players identified in the Talent ID.
Special shoutout to the Dragons here, who have really focused on selecting women in the team from the local area.
During the NRL finals, each team will play each other once, then the two top-placed teams will play each other in the grand final (which will be a double-header with the men’s decider on Sunday 30 September).
The Roosters will host the Warriors at ANZ Stadium at 3:05pm on Saturday afternoon, before the game between the Warriors and the Penrith Panthers in the men’s. The action continues on Sunday when the Broncos play the Dragons at 1.45pm in the women’s, followed by the same clash in the men’s.
I have my fingers crossed for big crowds at both games and particularly that those who are heading out to watch their teams in the men’s finals head out early to watch the women’s game.
There are a few rule changes for the women’s game, most noticeably being that the games are made up of two 30-minute halves.
The reason for 60-minute games, based on my understanding, is due to the broadcast schedule and also to combat fatigue, given that many women in this competition have – due to the NRL’s increased focus on the women’s game this year – played more footy than in previous years.
Similar to the NRL, during the NRLW there will be two on-field refs and the NRL Bunker will also be used. Ten interchanges are available during regular time and a 40-30 kick advantage exists to encourage dynamic, attacking football.
Should it be needed, golden point will apply in the regular rounds, with five minutes each way, with the first team to score winning. If we end up in golden point during the grand final, five full minutes of extra time each way will be played, with the score at the end of the full 70-minute period to determine the winner.
In case you haven’t had much opportunity to watch the women’s game, here are some players you should keep an eye.
Karina Brown, Quincy Dodd (who was a late signature, to replace the injured Corban McGregor, following standout performances in the Tarsha Gale Cup), Isabelle Kelly (the hero for the New South Wales Blues during State of Origin), Ruan Sims (captain of the Australian Jillaroos), Maddie Studdon (captain of the NSW Blues) and captain Simaima Taufa.
St George Illawarra Dragons
Samantha Bremner (captain of the successful Jillaroos team at the Auckland Nines in 2015), Talesha Quinn, Kezie Apps (NSWRL and Dally M Female Player of the Year in 2016), Rikeya Horne, Holli Wheeler (dual representative who has also played in the W-League) and Asipau Mafi.
New Zealand Warriors
Georgia Hale (one of the most exciting and dynamic Kiwi Ferns), Laura Mariu and Lorina Papali’I (mother of Isaiiah Papali’i, who plays for the New Zealand Warriors, making them the first mother-son duo to ever play in the NRL).
Captain Ali Brigginshaw (one of the stalwarts of the women’s game), Brittany Breayley, Tallisha Harden, Amelia Kuk, Kody House and Meg Ward (who played for the Jillaroos before playing making her state debut for Queensland earlier this year).
Some Cronulla Sharks and South Sydney Rabbitohs fans were disappointed their teams were not awarded a licence for the inaugural competition, particularly since most rugby league fans associate these two teams as being key drivers behind the development of the women’s game.
But to those saying they will not support the NRLW until the Sharks or Rabbitohs get a team, this is short-sighted.
For the NRLW to be successful and for the NRL to understand its importance and value, it needs support. Support in word is good, but support in deed is even better. By deed, I mean bums on seats and eyeballs on screens.
Without us as fans, demonstrably showing our support for the new competition, it is unlikely that the NRLW will be a success.
So I really encourage all of you to get behind this competition and the outstanding women who will be competing. For those of you unable to get out to the game to cheer on the women live, you can tune in on Channel Nine, Fox Sports and the NRL Live Pass app.
My tip for the Premiers? The Sydney Roosters.
Let the competition begin.