The Roar
The Roar


NRLW expansion announced, with new club named and a heavyweight return - and another kick for Souths

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28th March, 2024

The NRLW is set to expand to 12 teams from the 2025 season, with Canterbury Bulldogs set to debut in the competition alongside the return of the New Zealand Warriors.

The big losers were South Sydney, who had hoped to be included, but were left out in favour of the other two bids, with the NRL seeking not to overcrowd the pathway in Sydney.

“This is an exciting moment for the Telstra Women’s Premiership, as we continue to build on the momentum built from previous seasons,” said NRL CEO Andrew Abdo.

“The return of the Warriors is an important strategic boost for the women’s game in New Zealand, while the Bulldogs are adding the final step to their program after years of strong investment in the women’s game.

“We are working closely with each and every Club to build a comprehensive strategic plan for the NRLW and the women’s game.

“The plan with Clubs will see further expansion opportunities in the coming years, for which we have seen strong interest and detailed business plans from all 17 Clubs. We are looking forward to working with Clubs on each of the individual programs over the next couple of years.”

The Kiwi-based team were one of the original four when the NRLW launched but left during Covid after travel restrictions made their participation impossible.


Georgia Hale, the reigning Women’s Golden Boot, plus Kiwi Ferns stars such as Madison Bartlett, Apii Nicholls and Annetta Nu’uausala are all potential targets after featuring for the Warriors prior to leaving in 2020.

“It’s obviously extremely exciting, not just for our club but for women’s rugby league in New Zealand,” said Warriors CEO Cameron George.

“Our fans have eagerly awaited the return of their side to the NRLW stage. We saw that excitement pre-Covid and now, after plenty of work, we’re finally ready to go again.

Canterbury have been standouts in the Harvey Normal Women’s Premiership, the NSW state championship, and will hope to take some of their players from that comp with them into the big league.

They lost the Grand Final last year in an epic 1-0 result to Mounties but featured Gayle Broughton, Kennedy Cherrington and Tiana Raftstrand-Smith, all stars at NRLW and rep level.

“We have worked extremely hard to get to this position and it is very rewarding to see the Bulldogs contributing to the growth of the women’s game at all levels,” said Head of Football Phil Gould.


“This announcement rewards the efforts of all of our staff and female pathways players, who now like their idols in the men’s game, have a complete pathway to play at the most elite level. This is a wonderful achievement and something our blue-and-white faithful should be extremely excited about.”

Souths were disappointed but reiterated their commitment to developing their own female pathway.

“We applied to be part of the initial NRLW season and have maintained our application to be part of the competition ever since,” said CEO Blake Solly.

“We completely understand the NRL’s decision to expand with the Warriors and Bulldogs based on geographic terms in 2025, and we look forward to our opportunity to field a team when the time is right for the NRL’s expansion and our Club’s participation plans.

“Our application has always been based on an NRLW squad of players that have primarily come through our pathways programs. Nothing changes with this announcement, and we will use this additional time before entry to the NRLW to continue improving these programs.”