NRL Women’s: Lack of bids doesn’t mean lack of interest

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    Ruan Sims will be one of the stars in the NRL's women's competition. (NSWRL / Facebook)

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    Over the last couple of days I have seen some exceptionally lazy commentary about the upcoming NRL Women’s competition, particularly following Friday, when bids to have a team in the inaugural competition officially closed.

    According to reports, the teams that have expressed interest and put in bids were the St George Illawarra Dragons, the Cronulla Sharks, the Sydney Roosters, the Brisbane Broncos and the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

    What’s missing from that geographical spread is a team in traditional rugby league heartland, Western Sydney.

    Some have been critical of clubs in these areas, like the Wests Tigers, Parramatta Eels and Canterbury Bulldogs, for initially expressing interest in the competition but not following that up with a formal bid, and some have labelled it a demonstration of a lack of interest in women’s rugby league.

    That accusation is ill-informed.

    The NRL made its announcement about the women’s competition on 5 December 2017 just after the conclusion of the Rugby League World Cup. It made sense to make the announcement at this point in time given the victory and success of our Australian Jillaroos at the tournament, but it didn’t make much sense from a planning and administrative point of view, particularly if the NRL was hoping the teams that would show interest in that competition would bear the financial costs of fielding a team.

    Caitlin Moran

    (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

    By December of any given year, a club has worked out its budget for the coming season and have allocated spend. We read countless articles about how few clubs are profitable, so it’s fair to say that there would be very few with buckets of money sitting aside for miscellaneous purposes, particularly the sort of cash required to properly field and support an additional team.

    This lack of funds is an even more pronounced problem for clubs that are at the beginning of their women’s rugby league journey, because these teams will have start-up costs. For example, many stadia do not have women’s changerooms. Getting the right facilities is a necessity for most clubs, but they’re ultimately costs they must budget for.

    It therefore comes as no surprise that teams like the Sharks and Dragons are in a position to put in bids. These are the two Sydney teams that have led the way for women’s rugby league. Not only did both participate in the Sharks nines competition last year, meaning that appropriate facilities are available and they have strong talent to draw upon from the local women’s competitions in the south, but the Sharks even went as far as contracting players last year, including Ruan Sims. Kezie Apps is also linked with the Dragons.

    I understand that when AFLW started the clubs that were granted licenses were also given a grant from the AFL to help support the establishment of the teams. If a similar offer is not made to rugby league teams, then I can completely understand why clubs would tread carefully in the coming year, particularly when Todd Greenberg made it abundantly clear earlier this year that the NRL does not have the funds to ‘bail out’ clubs that operate at a loss. Financial survival is paramount.

    (Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

    But even if we only have four teams in the initial competition, so what? I’m really comfortable with the NRL and the clubs taking this process slowly and starting with a six-week, four-team competition this year with a view to growing in coming years.

    Now that clubs have been given the opportunity to go through the bid process and see what is required of them, each team that hasn’t put in an application can begin planning and working towards having the funds necessary to field a team in 2020.

    The Eels, Tigers and Bulldogs all have a team in the Tarsha Gale competition, so to say they have no interest in women’s rugby league is completely unwarranted and unfair. I have every confidence that these particular three teams will be in a much better position to put in a bid for an entry in 2020 when the competition is ready to expand again.

    I still remain really excited about the NRL’s announcement last year because I know that the game will be able to stand on its own two feet as a product.

    (Sean Teuma)

    There has been plenty of media attention over the last two weeks on the AFLW, particularly surrounding the infamous ‘leaked memo’ which went to AFLW coaches telling them how to structure their teams and how to play the game to make it more appealing and higher scoring.

    While I question the AFL for doing this, particularly since I am of the view that the game needs time to develop organically, I am confident that this would never happen in rugby league, because our product is already good and has the excitement in attack and ferocity in defence that we are so used to in the men’s competition.

    You only need to tune in to watch the Jillaroos play the Kiwi Ferns or the Interstate Challenge to see this on show.

    So whether we start with four teams or eight teams and whether it takes two years or ten to get to a geographically representative competition, I have enough faith in the quality of play and in the women playing rugby league to know that the NRL’s women’s competition will be a success.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (57)

    • February 19th 2018 @ 6:57am
      BA Sports said | February 19th 2018 @ 6:57am | ! Report

      Understand your two key points about the difference between Interest and lack of club sign up and the budget/ set-up cost component. But I have to say for Penrith and Parramatta to suggest they are not in a financial position to put forward a team is rather concerning to me. Haven’t the Panthers just developed the ducks nuts of academies for rugby league? Did they not factor female athletes into the project?

      To me, it is consistent with what many of us have been saying for years – Clubs have no interest in the development of the game and it is a narrow sightedness that kills the game. The NRL needs to put minimum requirements on the clubs in order for them to receive their annual grant – or if that exists, the requirements need to be far more detailed and all encompassing..

      not t

      • February 19th 2018 @ 8:50am
        tyrone said | February 19th 2018 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        Clubs are businesses, the days of being all about the game stopped when George Piggins stopped his association with the Rabbitohs, and look how they changed when they became a professional business.

        Every clubs priority is to win games and make money, it would be nice for them to also develop the game but this does not help with the clubs overall goals and results expected from members or shareholders.

        Developing the game is the job of the NRL/ARL/NSWRL/QRL not the teams.

        • Roar Guru

          February 19th 2018 @ 4:53pm
          Cadfael said | February 19th 2018 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

          Agree about the clubs but the ARL/NRL should be doing what the AFL did in providing grants for AFLW to take off. Do the funds provided by the NRLARL to clubs include funding for juniors and country in both NSW and Qld plus funding for the other states? Or is the funding solely for te NRL clubs.

        • February 19th 2018 @ 10:13pm
          Greg Ambrose said | February 19th 2018 @ 10:13pm | ! Report

          Sporting clubs are still more closely related to clubs than businesses I say. There are lots of true businesses who feed off the game like the broadcasters etc but if clubs were simply businesses who would bother with them?

          The odd exception might include Manchester United and some other global clubs but most clubs in Australia are terrible businesses and not viable so there must be much more to it and there is.

          It is still more about the game than money. Even for the players who could put themselves on the open market and play union in France most don’t because it is a passion like it is for the owners of clubs who chose to buy an NRL club over a profit making nut and bolt factory.

      • Columnist

        February 19th 2018 @ 8:57am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 19th 2018 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        Hi BA Sports – thanks for your comment.

        You’ll notice that in my piece, I really focused on the Eels, Tigers and Bulldogs. Each of these teams has demonstrated their interest in women’s footy at a top level, with key leaders at the clubs coming out last week and reaffirming the club’s interest in women’s footy but acknowledging the resource challenges. For the Eels specifically, I’ll direct you to this article which details some of the financial pressures the club is dealing with at the moment –

        So despite the Eels having access to a junior nursery, that doesn’t absolve them off the costs associated with starting a competition.

        In terms of Penrith, I don’t have as much of a link with that club so can’t really speak about their connection to women’s footy. I don’t think it is fair to assume though that clubs have buckets of money sitting around.

        • February 19th 2018 @ 9:18am
          spruce moose said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:18am | ! Report

          I would imagine it’s just a matter of poor timing for the Eels. I suspect the priority for them is to hold the fort until their new stadium (and thus training facilities) are completed and then they will bid for an expansion team.

          Penrith on the other hand I have absolutely no idea why they wouldn’t. They own their own stadium, they have a regional NSW network too – they could have showcased a couple of games in Bathurst and Port Macquarie as part of that. They are, if I understand, cash rich as well.


          • Columnist

            February 19th 2018 @ 9:24am
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

            I have suspicions as to why Penrith wouldn’t, but as I said I don’t have as much insight into how that club operates, particularly financially.

            I think your comments about the Eels are spot on.

    • February 19th 2018 @ 8:21am
      McNaulty said | February 19th 2018 @ 8:21am | ! Report

      The NRL should offer the Bears a WNRL franchise.
      Get the Bears brand on Fox and Nine again.

      Run the comp with:

      Sydney Roosters
      North Sydney Bears
      South Sydney Rabbitohs
      Cronulla Sharks
      St George Dragons
      Brisbane Broncos

      When those other NRL clubs want in next year the NRL should say “no, sorry we aren’t ready for expansion into your areas for another 5 years. Though we are taking expansion bids from Perth etc”.

      • Columnist

        February 19th 2018 @ 9:00am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        McNaulty why are you looking to punish teams for not having the funds to enter a team next year?

        • Columnist

          February 19th 2018 @ 9:11am
          Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:11am | ! Report

          *this year

        • February 19th 2018 @ 9:15am
          McNaulty said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:15am | ! Report

          Mary, these Western Sydney clubs have the funds. Their League’s clubs are money pits.

          But anyway, I am just on about getting on with the womens game ASAP with clubs that will support it. We should forge ahead without these Western Sydney teams. With 4 Sydney teams already keen and as I suggest the Bears (hypothetical to get it up to the 6 clubs) we really don’t need any more Sydney teams. When the competition expands they can bid but we should be expanding to Melbourne, Brisbane 2, Newcastle and other places first.

          • Columnist

            February 19th 2018 @ 9:23am
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

            • February 19th 2018 @ 11:09am
              McNaulty said | February 19th 2018 @ 11:09am | ! Report

              That is just Leagues club trickery.
              They count money spent as an expense but they don’t count the leagues club grant which pays for the spending as revenue – which it is. The football club does not have to spend $10mill on whatever but because they have the Leagues club grant of $10mill they do spend it.
              That isn’t making a loss anywhere in the business world.

          • February 19th 2018 @ 12:26pm
            Your kidding said | February 19th 2018 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

            It all looks a bit shaky. The Broncos are the only club making a profit and can afford to gamble on a women’s team. But can the others?

            • February 20th 2018 @ 6:44am
              mushi said | February 20th 2018 @ 6:44am | ! Report

              Though to be fair aren’t the rest subsidiaries of private companies or not for profit entities. I’d hazard a wild guess that most would be deliberately structured so as to minimise the potential for a taxable profit.

              The Broncos are a listed entity so, even though they’re 80% owned by two parties, the board has a fiduciary duty to run it in the economic interest of all shareholders. I.e. needs to try and make a profit.

          • February 19th 2018 @ 6:24pm
            no one in particular said | February 19th 2018 @ 6:24pm | ! Report

            Leagues clubs only give the minimum required to the football clubs. If a few had their way they would give them zero. They won’t be giving more

      • February 19th 2018 @ 9:08am
        jeff dustby said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        Craziest idea ever

    • February 19th 2018 @ 10:12am
      Greg said | February 19th 2018 @ 10:12am | ! Report

      “Many stadia do not have women’s changerooms”. What’s the difference between a men’s changeroom and a women’s changeroom?

      • February 19th 2018 @ 10:14am
        terrence said | February 19th 2018 @ 10:14am | ! Report


      • Columnist

        February 19th 2018 @ 10:16am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 19th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        And what if the men and women are training/playing at the same time…

        • February 19th 2018 @ 11:56am
          Oingo Boingo said | February 19th 2018 @ 11:56am | ! Report

          That would be financial suicide , to have a massive drawcard like a woman’s game run at the same time as the men’s.

          • Columnist

            February 19th 2018 @ 1:08pm
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 19th 2018 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

            Oingo, not to have them at the same time, but what if they were played as double headers? Each team would need a change room.

    • February 19th 2018 @ 11:49am
      McNaulty said | February 19th 2018 @ 11:49am | ! Report

      So is the competition still going to go ahead this year?

      • Columnist

        February 19th 2018 @ 1:09pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 19th 2018 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

        Of course it will go ahead.

        • February 19th 2018 @ 2:40pm
          McNaulty said | February 19th 2018 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

          Well, thats good. This year hopefully though I have my doubts.

          • Columnist

            February 19th 2018 @ 2:44pm
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 19th 2018 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

            As I set out above, at least 4 clubs have put in bids. I’m not sure whether there were any additional ones (i.e. NZ may have put one in too).

            The NRL was looking to have a 4-6 team comp so I’m hopeful that each team that applied will be granted a licence and the competition will kick off later this year.

    • February 19th 2018 @ 11:52am
      Your kidding said | February 19th 2018 @ 11:52am | ! Report

      Call it what it is. It’s a joke. The NRL claimed there was great interest from clubs and now it looks a 4 or 5 team thrown together competition.
      Western Sydney have been gifted a brand new stadium at Parramatta. You’d think that at least one of the clubs in the west would help the game grow with a women’s team. Why bother if the women’s soccer, AFL, union, basketball leagues etc are so much better organised.

      • Columnist

        February 19th 2018 @ 1:09pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 19th 2018 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

        Did you read my article at all?

        • February 19th 2018 @ 5:48pm
          Your kidding said | February 19th 2018 @ 5:48pm | ! Report

          Yes Mary, I read it. Are you on the NRL payroll?
          Cricket, soccer, AFL, union, basketball etc can do it but not the NRL. At the moment it would seem that a women’s competition is a bridge too far. Better to launch something with more participation.

          • Columnist

            February 19th 2018 @ 5:53pm
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 19th 2018 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

            And all these sports did it overnight did they?

            It’s completely unfair to suggest that just because teams do not put in a bid in the initial year, that they have no interest in women’s footy. We can make judgement calls when bids are asked for for 2020, but it’s absolutely ridiculous to make those calls now.

            • February 19th 2018 @ 6:21pm
              Your kidding said | February 19th 2018 @ 6:21pm | ! Report

              It’s like being asked to financially commit to investing in a business with a half baked idea.
              If a team like Parramatta hasn’t got the will to back it then there’s a problem.

    • Roar Guru

      February 19th 2018 @ 2:09pm
      Matt H said | February 19th 2018 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

      There’s no law that says the women’s comp has to start with a massive bang and take on all comers in its first year. A cautious approach is sensible for the long term survival of the comp. Imagine the publicity if 8 teams went ahead and then 4 pulled out next year? We don’t have AFL levels of cash to throw around so let’s take it slow and get it sustainable.

      From a Brisbane point of view it makes sense to get in early. We have some money, but also you would think this would have some sort of flow on effect to have girls and families supporting the male team as well. Also Brisbane you would think would be strong with the entire QLD squad to choose from.

      • February 19th 2018 @ 4:23pm
        McNaulty said | February 19th 2018 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

        how hard is it. If A-League clubs can afford a womens comp then what is the deal with the NRL?

        • Columnist

          February 19th 2018 @ 4:28pm
          Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 19th 2018 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

          McNaulty, its not that they can’t afford it. It is that they can’t afford it this coming financial year. I’m not sure why that is so challenging to understand.

          • February 19th 2018 @ 5:04pm
            McNaulty said | February 19th 2018 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

            St George and Cronulla can find the money for this year but a club like Parra can’t?
            They just aren’t particularly interest Mary. There are waiting around to see what transpires.

            The competition does not need them. I’d tell each of these Western Sydney clubs if they aren’t willing to put the yards in in the foundation year then they aren’t welcome at all.

            • Columnist

              February 19th 2018 @ 5:07pm
              Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 19th 2018 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

              McNaulty, I’m not going to rehash what I have written in my article.

              The start up costs for the Dragons and Sharks are NOT THE SAME as they are for other clubs, given their participation in the nines comp last year. The Sharks have led the way in this space so have many of the facilities already required.

              I’ve said my piece – if you have an agenda, feel free to pursue it. But you aren’t listening at all.

              • February 19th 2018 @ 5:23pm
                McNaulty said | February 19th 2018 @ 5:23pm | ! Report

                I’ve already moved on.
                The Parramatta Eels are more than welcome to become a WNRL feeder club for the Dragons or Roosters.

        • Roar Guru

          February 20th 2018 @ 11:12am
          Matt H said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:12am | ! Report

          Could the A-League clubs have afforded it if they were asked in June to have a team ready for next February?

          • Columnist

            February 20th 2018 @ 11:34am
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:34am | ! Report

            I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall. 😀

            • February 20th 2018 @ 11:57am
              Marco said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:57am | ! Report

              Take the blinkers off Mary. The NRL are obviously not prepared for this new competition this year.

              • Columnist

                February 20th 2018 @ 2:06pm
                Mary Konstantopoulos said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

                Marco, when did I apologise for the NRL in the article?

                I merely put forward reasons as to why clubs would not be ready to put in a bid this year.

                What is the big deal if we only go ahead with 4 teams?

              • February 20th 2018 @ 2:35pm
                Marco said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

                4 teams ! Yeah right, as if that would be taken seriously. If just one of those teams backs out after a bad season, it’s all over.
                Unless the NRL and the clubs are prepared to put their money where their mouth is, it’s all talk.

          • February 20th 2018 @ 1:35pm
            McNaulty said | February 20th 2018 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

            The Parramatta Eels have the money for a womens team now.

            The Leagues club could put up the $500k with the stroke of a pen. The excuse they are using is the budget they have set for this next year. But all that is is a way of saying “we don’t want to fund a womens teams now. We have the money, but we don’t want to do it because we aren’t interested enough”.

            They would magically find the money for something important that they ARE interested in like for example litigation. They would get the funding for litigation from the Leagues Club with the stroke of a pen.

            I can live with Parramatta not supporting the WNRL, it will damage the competition but we just have to make do. What I can’t stand is this excuse making for them. Like their hands are tied. Whatever.

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