When you experience something good, your natural reaction to that experience is to want more of it.
On Friday night, Australia and New Zealand battled it out in a grinding match in front of a big crowd at Hunter Stadium.
The Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns showed exactly why the women’s game is to be respected with more than half the stadium filled for their fourth clash of 2016 with New Zealand coming out on top 26-16.
There was plenty of passion between both sides with the best women in rugby league showing off raw talent and skill, producing some hard hits and exciting plays.
Georgia Hale was sensational in the Ferns’ win while Atawhai Tupaea also made a massive contribution.
Jillaroos captain Ruan Sims took pride in the green and gold producing a big effort once again and ending the game battered and bruised with her eye swollen shut, she wasn’t the only casualty with centre Corban McGregor spending the majority of the game on the sideline after injuring her collarbone in the fifth minute.
If Friday’s Test match was anything to go by, it’s time the NRL stepped up and introduced a national women’s league.
How exciting would it be if we could see the likes of Georgia Hale, Samantha Bremner and the Peters sisters, Kahurangi and Rona, produce some high-quality footy week in, week out.
With women’s sport taking huge strides in Australia and around the world following the rise of the Matildas national football team, continued growth of netball, the announcement of a women’s AFL competition and the emergence of the Women’s Big Bash League, Todd Greenberg needs to seriously consider giving the best female talent in rugby league an opportunity to play regular football to avoid losing some of our biggest stars to rugby sevens.
Last year, rugby league fans were introduced to Mahalia Murphy who put in a brilliant effort for the Jillaroos in their Trans-Tasman Test win over the Kiwi Ferns scoring a hattrick.
Then just three months later, rugby league lost the 19-year old to rugby sevens with the exciting winger enticed by the professionalism of the abridged version of rugby league’s cousin and the possibility of representing her country at the Rio 2016.
I propose an eight-team tournament with teams from New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand that will help to nurture the women’s game and attract some of our stars back to the greatest game of all.
The competition would be held over 18 weeks with a 14-week regular season seeing each team play each other on a home-and-away basis with a two-week break halfway through to allow for a Trans-Tasman Test series with Australia and New Zealand hosting a leg each.
The regular season would be followed by the semi-finals ultimately culminating in the grand final to be played at ANZ Stadium as part of NRL grand final day festivities.
The eight teams making up the league would be as follows:
Akarana Falcons – The Akarana Falcons would hold an affiliation with the New Zealand Warriors and Canberra Raiders, receiving support from the NZRL and playing out of Mount Smart Stadium. Based out of Auckland, the Falcons will be one of two New Zealand teams in the competition.
Counties Manukau Stingrays – The Counties Manukau Stingrays will serve as New Zealand’s second team also based out of Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium. The Stingrays will be affiliated with both the New Zealand Warriors and Melbourne Storm as well as receiving support from the NZRL.
Western Sydney Opals – Named after New South Wales’ state gem, the Opals will serve the heart of Sydney, based out of Penrith in the city’s west. They will hold affiliations with the Parramatta Eels, Penrith Panthers and Wests Tigers playing out of Pepper Stadium and coming under the NSWRL as one of the three teams representing the first state.
South-Western Sydney Belles – Teaming up with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Cronulla Sharks and St George Illawarra Dragons, the Belles will train out of Belmore Sportsground while splitting their game between the home of the Bulldogs and WIN Stadium in Wollongong on the state’s south coast. They will be administered by the NSWRL.
New South Wales Spirit – The third falling under the governance of the NSWRL, the Spirit will play out of Central Coast Stadium basing themselves out of Gosford and holding NRL affiliations with the Manly Sea Eagles, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Sydney Roosters and also Newcastle Knights. The Spirit could even bring games to regional parts of New South Wales with the possibility for fixtures to be taken to towns such as Wagga Wagga and Dubbo.
Northern Marlins – Covering a massive rugby league nursery, the Northern Marlins would be based out of Townsville playing home games at Jack Manski Oval, sharing the ground with Intrust Super Cup powerhouse the Townsville Blackhawks. The Marlins would also take games on the road with fixtures to be played at Barlow Park in Cairns and Virgin Australia Stadium in Mackay. They would be governed by the QRL Northern Division whom they share their namesake with and their affiliate, 2015 NRL premiers the North Queensland Cowboys.
Brisbane Sapphires – Queensland’s capital city would host the Brisbane Sapphires who borrow their nickname from Queensland’s state gem. Playing out of Langlands Park, home ground of the Easts Tigers, the Sapphires will hold an affiliation with the Brisbane Broncos and will be administered by the Brisbane Rugby League.
Gold Coast Valkyries – The Valkyries will take the Gold Coast market by storm with a stronghold over the south-east Queensland city and much of northern New South Wales. Inspiration for the name comes from the region’s representative team, the Vikings, with the club to be based out of Pizzey Park partnering with the Gold Coast Titans, Burleigh Bears and the Gold Coast Rugby League.
Squads will be made up of between 22 and 25 players taking some of the best players from the Jillaroos, Kiwi Ferns and England national team, the grassroots level around Australia, New Zealand and the UK while also luring back some of rugby league’s best female athletes from rugby union.
The NRL would seek a television broadcast deal that could see a game shown on a Sunday afternoon on the Nine Network in the lead-up to their NRL broadcast with the remaining fixtures to be played on Fox Sports dedicated rugby league channel or one of its sister channels.
This would see grassroots numbers among girls grow and could even see prospective female coaches such as former Jillaroo Tahnee Norris given opportunities to coach at the highest level.
With growth in participation, it will eventually offer the opportunity for the competition to expand with possible locations for new franchises including Ipswich, Wellington, Newcastle, Canberra and Melbourne.
The talent is there, now all that is left for the NRL to realise just how important women are to rugby league and how beneficial it could be to give young girls something to aspire to.