Rugby league expert Katie Brown makes her Siren Sport debut, reflecting on the year that wasn’t for the NRLW and her wishlist for the future.
In 2022, an historic women’s rugby league season awaits. For the first time, hundreds of talented athletes can look forward to playing a full season of footy—how exciting!
So, with that one wish being granted, I wanted to make an NRLW wishlist and look at what else I’m hoping for the game and the women who play it. But we’ll get to that in just a moment. Let’s first look at all the action we have coming to us in 2022!
14th – All Stars
February + March + April
27th – Delayed NRLW competition (first 2 rounds will be triple headers in Newcastle and Wollongong)
April + May + June
Players return to State Competitions
16th – NSW Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership
24th – State of Origin
16th – NSW Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership grand final
August + September
2022 NRLW competition* (disappointingly there is no confirmed draw)
Rugby League World Cup
Like I said, exciting!
It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago, more than 130 NRLW players were devastated that their elite fixture had been postponed not once, not twice, but three times. Players and staff in the women’s space were left short-changed and it became very clear a majority were fed up with the poor communication and treatment.
I was one of them. I delivered an emotional spray to the ARLC and NRL and I will never apologise for what I said.
But now that the dust has settled, I want this wishlist to be a way forward, a guide to what so many women’s rugby league supporters hope can one day become more than just a wish.
An NRLW board, sub-committee, CEO—all I know is the women’s game is lacking a leader. A dominant voice who holds their stance and shows authority. Firm direction, clarity and understanding. Whether it is a male or female, the game needs an equivalent of AFLW’s Nicole Livingstone. A strong candidate who comes to mind is Tain Drinkwater; former Broncos NRLW Chief Executive and currently the Netball NSW CEO. I know there are others who would be able to take on a role like this including Australian Jillaroos legend Karyn Murphy. I would like to add, I have a lot of respect for NRL CEO Andrew Abdo. I worked under him at the NRL and he was always very good to me. But he’s run off his feet with the NRL competition and we all see the daily dramas there. Now I don’t want to divide the men and women, however, if the greatest game of all doesn’t prioritise NRLW we will continue to see other codes take our talent. Putting in some kind of leadership system can begin to work to serve the women’s game, and work in collaboration with the men’s.
I have said it since 2018 when the inaugural NRLW season was announced and I will say it again. All 16 (now 17) NRL clubs must have sustainable female pathways in place. From under 8’s through to open and ultimately the NRLW.
This is not just a tick for equality. The female footy space is the fastest growing area of rugby league right now. According to New South Wales Rugby League, Sydney Roosters Junior Rugby League has seen a 257% increase in female numbers since 2019 and North Sydney’s juniors a 237% growth. Women and girls want to play footy.
In 2023, the NRL will begin its new broadcast rights deal. The NRLW has to be in the conversation and I want a minimum of 10 teams with a finals series and at least a six week preseason included. I also want a three-game State of Origin Series.
Before you spit your chips, remember I did clearly state this is my wishlist.
Firstly, the women need to be included in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is an agreement between the NRL and Rugby League Players Association.
I want the minimum wage for a contracted NRLW player to be $60,000 in 2023.
I want marquee players to see six figure salaries.
I want there to be paid maternity leave.
I want the women to be compensated if they get injured.
And I really want the women to be paid enough so they can be a full-time professional athlete and not have to work on the side to pay their bills and feed their families.
Recognition and representation
If you can see it, you can be it. But you can’t be, what you can’t see…
I’ve noticed the Nellie Dougherty medal is awarded to the best player in the Women’s State of Origin. The Karyn Murphy medal is awarded to the best player in the NRLW Grand Final. But the best player in the women’s game is the Dally M medalist… now that doesn’t make sense because that accolade is named after Herbert Henry “Dally” Messenger who is regarded as one of the best male footballers of all time.
Why can’t there be a female equivalent?
Why can’t there be a female Hall of Famer? We saw the AFL induct Debbie Lee, their first women honouree, this year. What a great step towards unity and equality.
I wish that one day we see a female immortal named alongside the current list of 13.
A call out to all clubs who have an NRLW team—please sell the women’s NRLW jerseys and supporter wear. Put in the effort. Fans and families want to buy them.
These women want support on and off the field. Contract security, the backing of their club and investors buying in.
If you are a business, invest!
If you are a fan, buy a membership, follow your favourite players on their social media channels. Go to live games if you can. Fun fact: watching on TV will not actually help much, if at all. OzTAM is Australia’s ratings measurement provider and unless you have one of the 5200 set-top boxes in your home, watching in your loungeroom is actually useless.
This is why I have to stress—buying a ticket is the best way to show your support and it creates revenue.
DISCLAIMER: This is my wishlist. Just like dreams, wishes are free too.