Mary’s Wonder Women: Same game. Our way.

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert


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    Four teams for the NRL's inaugural women;s competition have been announced (NRL Imagery/Ben Southall)

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    I now have another four teams to support in rugby league, with the NRL announcing this week the clubs that have been granted inaugural licences in the 2018 Women’s Premiership.

    In a historic day for footy, the Brisbane Broncos, Sydney Roosters, St George Illawarra Dragons and New Zealand Warriors have all been granted licenses and will now begin negotiating with players to assemble their squads.

    Caitlin Moran is expected to be the Roosters’ first signing, with ‘Red V’ ambassadors Samantha Bremner and Kezie Apps expected to play in red and white, while Karina Brown is being touted as a potential captain for the Brisbane Broncos.

    A hundred players will be needed for the competition, so a contract process will begin to provide four balanced squads.

    This was a day of much joy for rugby league, but I was also disappointed to see the Cronulla Sharks and South Sydney Rabbitohs miss out on licences.

    There has been plenty of focus on the Sharks and how they have been hard done by, particularly because of how much they have done for women’s footy, including launching the Cronulla Sharks Women’s Series team, hosting the Women’s Rugby League World Cup in 2017, and already having contracted players, including current Australian Jillaroos captain Ruan Sims.

    The Sharks already had a coach lined up for the team, as well as a major sponsor.

    Ruan Sims of the Jillaroos (left) palms off a tackle by Maitua Feterika of the Kiwi Ferns

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    But I am equally disappointed for the Bunnies, who have this year entered a team in the NSW Women’s Premiership, and have several Jillaroos connected to the club, some who have also previously played for the Redfern All Blacks like Maddie Studdon, Lavine O’Mealey and Nakia Davis-Welsh.

    I understand the reason the NRL picked the four teams it has. Granting the Warriors a licence means that New Zealand is represented and the Broncos cover Queensland. The Roosters will make a showing for the Central Coast and Sydney, while the Dragons will look to capture the talent of over 14,000 women and girls who play in the Wollongong catchment area.

    Additionally, there has been a view expressed by Jillaroos, former players and people involved in the women’s game that the correct approach is to start small to ensure a quality competition and then build it from there.

    However, it’s still difficult to see two teams miss out on receiving licences, particularly when both clubs are so invested in women’s footy.

    Only six bids for licences were put in. I wonder how different the outcome would have been had clubs been given a bit more time to prepare?

    The announcement about the women’s competition was made just after the conclusion of the World Cup. It was logical to harness the energy and support of the time, but it didn’t make much sense from a planning and administrative point of view, particularly if the NRL was hoping the clubs would bear the financial costs of fielding a team.

    It was no surprise that no club from Western Sydney was in a position to put in a bid, particularly after reading so many articles about how few clubs are actually profitable.

    But, regardless of the process, or which teams have been selected, we are here and we have a women’s competition.

    Over the next couple of weeks, we will see women given fresh opportunities in the game that they have loved for years.

    For many, that will include the opportunity to wear the jerseys of the teams that they have supported since they were little girls. For others, it will mean a real opportunity to coach at a top level – like Luisa Avaiki, who has been named head coach of the Warriors.

    Luisa captained the Kiwi Ferns to victory in the first three women’s World Cup tournaments – in 2000, 2003 and 2008 – with a playing career that lasted from 1995 to 2009. Since retiring, Luisa has worked at the Melbourne Storm as a game development officer and since 2016 has been the New Zealand Rugby League’s wellbeing and development manager.

    We may even see a place for female commentators once the competition begins.

    But for the moment, I am thrilled that we have another four teams to celebrate and look forward to hearing more about the competition.

    To the Sharks and the Rabbitohs – thank you so much for everything you have done and continue to do for women’s footy. The journey is not over here. And if there is a silver lining to all of this, it is not only that women are now getting an opportunity to play the game that they love but also, that by the time you have teams in the new competition, you will have listened and learnt from the mistakes that will inevitably be made in the competition’s first year.

    When it comes time to expand the competition, I know you will be ready.

    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 (29)

    • March 30th 2018 @ 9:07am
      Justin Kearney said | March 30th 2018 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      Great news about the comp . Like many I am very disappointed the sharks missed out. Interested in that female player pool in the Gong region. Is it really 14000? Sounds an awful lot!

      • Columnist

        March 31st 2018 @ 9:07am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 31st 2018 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        JK, they are the reported numbers – I wish I had more information.

    • March 30th 2018 @ 10:00am
      Glenn said | March 30th 2018 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      Very pleased to welcome the ladies to the wonderful Red V Club and wish them every success. It would be great to belt the Broncos twice in one night or win two premierships in the same year- not impossible for a Club whose men can win 11 straight. SAINTS!

    • March 30th 2018 @ 10:01am
      Woody said | March 30th 2018 @ 10:01am | ! Report

      Mary, love you like a sister, but you and I both know the this dog act by a couple of questionable characters, smacks of corruption. ICAC type corruption. The state government has invested money in Womens Rugby League and perhaps they might asj some questions about how this result from a dubious selection process, was derermoned. That the Sharks have invested over $200,000 in Womens Rugby League over the past 2 years, that 5 current Sharks players are contracted Jillaroos and the Captain, Ruan Sims was the first professional womens Rugby League player signed. And don’t forget both Ruan and Corban McGregor have been used by NRL in advertising and promotion for RLWC, and Commonwealth Games. Your figure for the number of players in the Illawarra comp are very questionable. There are 800 registered female players in the Cronulla Sutherland Junior League so 14,000 in Illawarra is poppycock. To add to this, The Sharks Tasha Gale side is leading that 9 a side comp by the length of Bronte Road. No Mary, it stinks. When this mob keep making poor decisions ine after the other, when they don’t know the name of the 2016 premiers, when they shun the two most deserving teams, then you smell a rat. It’s not their game, it’s MY GAME. I want it administered professionally and transparently. We’ve been sold a croc.

      • Columnist

        March 31st 2018 @ 9:08am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | March 31st 2018 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        Woody, I really am shattered. But I don’t know what to do about it?

    • March 30th 2018 @ 11:03am
      kk said | March 30th 2018 @ 11:03am | ! Report

      It may be difficult for the players, staff and sponsors of the rejected clubs to maintain their interest
      until entry.

      The ladies from Sharks and Souths have been deemed to lack the quality and skills to compete at
      the elite level. Where and against whom do they now compete? A two team comp.?

    • Roar Guru

      March 30th 2018 @ 11:27am
      Scott Pryde said | March 30th 2018 @ 11:27am | ! Report

      At least now, when the Dragons predictably get rolled and miss the finals, I still have a team to support in September! 😛

    • March 30th 2018 @ 11:46am
      Sam said | March 30th 2018 @ 11:46am | ! Report

      Sorry Marouli,but this is downright tokenism from the NRL.Only 4 teams??? And no Sharks or Rabbitohs??? Look at AFLW with 8 teams in Season 1,and 10 teams next season.And lets go back further when W-League started ten seasons ago with 8 teams. You of all people should agree.And I don’t buy the ‘quality of the product’ line. So poor Ruan Sims misses out!! Pathetic from NRL.