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Cowboys, Sharks, Raiders, Tigers get nod to join fast-tracked NRLW expansion to 10 teams

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15th June, 2022
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The ARL Commission will fast-track the expansion of the NRLW with four new teams entering the competition in 2023.

Canberra, Cronulla, North Queensland and the Wests Tigers will be be admitted to the NRLW next year following the completion of the second 2022 season. The 2021 premiership was delayed until the start of this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ARL had announced earlier this year that two teams would come into the competition next year with two more in 2024 but had decided to expand to 10 clubs ahead of schedule.

Under the 10-team competition next year, there will be six teams in NSW – also including existing clubs St George Illawarra, Parramatta, the Roosters and Newcastle, as well as the Raiders in the ACT, plus three in Queensland with the Cowboys joining Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

The Roosters won the NRLW grand final earlier this year, ending Brisbane’s run of three straight titles, when they upset the Dragons.

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Sarah Togatuki is tackled during the NRLW Grand Final. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

The tournament, which started in 2018 with four clubs, added three further teams earlier this year when the Warriors decided not to return to the competition with the Eels, Knights and Titans taking part for the first time.

The rapid growth has prompted fears the competition could witness to regular blowout scorelines due to lack of depth in talent.

“We’re doing it in a strategic manner to ensure we don’t dilute the quality of the game on the field,” said NRL CEO Andrew Abdo.

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“This is quick but it’s no quicker than we believe that we can produce. That’s a credit to the four (new) clubs.

“Our total national participation is 35,000, when we started the NRLW in 2018 it was 10,000. We’re very comfortable that the quality won’t be compromised.” 

Abdo couldn’t give a specific date on when the other remaining clubs could expect to be given NRLW teams and said, as things stand, only clubs with existing men’s NRL sides will be considered for licences.

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The NRLW remains the only women’s competition in Australia without a collective bargaining agreement and Abdo was unable to confirm when female athletes could expect to be full-time professionals.

He did concede the salary cap would increase in 2023.

“I don’t know when we are going to have every player being able to justify playing NRLW full time,” he said.

“But I know that as we add more teams, and as we have a competition that looks a lot closer to the men’s competition, there is going to be a threshold point.

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“The men’s game has been played for over 100 years, in terms of having contracts and playing for premierships this (the NRLW) has only been going for a couple of years.”

The NRL said they did not receive an application from the Warriors, who were a founder member of the competition but withdrew due to COVID-19 for the 2021 season.

Abdo said the next round of expansion – likely to be in 2024 – loomed as the date they would most likely return.

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“It’s been a very challenging time for the Warriors and we are on the brink of getting them back to Auckland,” he said.

“Then they can think about re-entry (to NRLW). The Warriors are very important for our competition. Those athletes based in New Zealand who want to relocate will be supported by the NRL.”

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