A day after a ground-breaking announcement for Women’s Rugby League, NSWRL Performance Programs Manager Jamie Feeney has urged the QRL to follow suit north of the border – for the good of the game.
Feeney, who this year helped NSW representative sides to under-16s, under-18s, under-20s and Women’s Interstate Challenge victories, lauded the NSWRL’s plans for an under-18s women’s junior representative competition. In years to come, this will be followed by an under-16s competition and an elite competition to be run alongside the Intrust Super Premiership NSW – a system that mirrors that for the state’s best male players.
“To get the representative pathways going from an 18s age group rather than leaving it to our NSW opens girls, I think that it’s a great step forward for us and especially for the future of our program,” Feeney told NSWRL.com.au. “Having it aligned with what we’ve always had for the boys is a great concept.”
Feeney explained that the ability to eventually have 16s, 18s and an elite opens competition will no doubt influence a higher quality of play in the NSW Women’s representative team – after a maiden victory in 2016.
“As we see with the junior boys – 16-year-olds and 18-year-olds – generally the progression goes that the average debut game for an Origin would be 24, so they’ve got a bit of progression,” Feeney said. “That’s what we’re doing now with our girls, we’re developing for the long term and we’ll hopefully maintain the success that these girls have kicked off this year.
“It just gives them all an opportunity to play at the highest level like the boys have always done.”
With the expansion of the Sydney Metropolitan Women’s Rugby League already happening this year, along with regular club competitions catering for under-15s and under-18s, the women’s game has never been so streamlined across age groups. This, too, has lifted the standard and laid the foundations for a genuine elite women’s competition.
“At the moment, they’re playing in the Sydney Metro comp that plays against other Sydney Metropolitan teams,” Feeney said. “Giving them that grounding of playing the higher level of footy each week against better players is only going to improve our program.
“Many of the girls playing that now will be those girls that are playing in that Intrust Super Premiership-aligned competition.”
Along with the boys’ Harold Matthews and SG Ball competitions, of course, comes the NSW Under-16s and Under-18s State of Origin teams. Similar Women’s teams, Feeney says, are a definite possibility – but will rely on the QRL establishing their own age-based competitions.
“Queensland I don’t think has an under-18s competition similar to what we’re going to get going,” Feeney said. “I’d envisage that in the next two to three years, they’ll follow our lead and they’ll get a competition like that.
“There’s no reason why we can’t have a state under-18s women’s team as well.”