There has been a lot of talk over the last few days about Women’s Rugby League and the possibility of a semi-professional competition being created that would run alongside the NRL that would give elite female athletes the opportunity to pursue a career in the sport that they love.
I really enjoy watching women play Rugby League games when it features Australia and New Zealand. Even the 9’s version of these contests are exciting. The contests are always very tough, and there is just as much, if not more passion shown in these contests than you see in the men’s contests. It is just good to watch!
I have said before that I believe you would find no opposition from anyone within the game if the NRL went about the task setting up a national women’s league. The NRL would obviously need to fund the creation of this competition in the early stages and come up with reasonable pay structures based upon what the women’s competition itself could generate for the game, but I think it wouldn’t take too much to get the ball rolling on all of that.
What would be an issue is the ability of such a competition to be financially sustainable over the long term. Could a women’s league stand on its own two feet? Could it attract sponsors? Would it get enough television viewers? Would it draw enough people through the gates?
If we are going to have a semi professional women’s competition, I don’t want to see it being run as a PR stunt or some gross act of “charity” by bean counters who feel like it would be a “good look” to have a women’s competition. I would rather see a women’s competition be strong in its own right. I would not want to see a women’s competition created only to then have people feel the need to justify its existence in the face of criticism that it is not financially viable.
There is an appetite for women’s sport. You only have to look at the ANZ Netball Championship to see that a women’s competition can stand on its own two feet and prosper. The ANZ Championship is actually so successful that they are looking to expand the competition and have Australian and New Zealand based clubs play in two desperate conferences. So we know the business model is there.
Imagine a women’s competition set up with brand new clubs that can build their own history, their own following, and not just be an offshoot of the men’s game. Imagine a competition that spanned the Tasman, one that has a number of teams from New Zealand where the women’s game is so strong.
I think it would be great to see the best female players in the game having a platform that could showcase their abilities. I have no doubt that much like the WNBA, the first generation of women would set an amazing platform that would see how the game is played change, skill levels rise, and the overall participation rates explode as young women see an outlet for athletic endeavor that they want to be a part of.
Women In League round? Every round would be Women In League round in a WNRL!
Most importantly, we could highlight the women within our sport that love the game so much they just have to get out there and play it. I think that sometimes in Rugby League the women that actually play our game get overshadowed by those that just like to go to meetings and have morning teas with other talking heads. I tend to think that the highest profile women in our sports should be our national captains, and that their voice should be heard far more often when we talk about Women In League.
There would be people within the NRL right now that would know whether of not a women’s competition could generate enough money overall to be financially viable. Current NRL clubs would hate the idea. They’d see it as a drain on their own sponsorship pool and their own supporter bases.
I’d love to see it happen. I think that if it can be done right, it could be a fantastic step forward for Rugby League, and one that would drive the women’s game to new heights as the best of the best got to showcase their Rugby League talent on a weekly basis.