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'Power move': Standalone comp gives NRLW chance to shine

Dragons forward Holli Wheeler believes the opportunity to play the NRL Telstra Women's Premiership as a standalone event is a chance to push for the competition to have its own identity. 

The NRL confirmed on Friday the fourth season of the NRLW had been postponed until October due to the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions in NSW.

The opening round of the six-week competition is expected to get underway on the same weekend as the men's NRL grand final in October, leaving the NRLW as the game's centrepiece for the following five weeks.

Wheeler, who lives on the northern beaches in Sydney and will again play for the Dragons this season, joined other leading players in expressing their excitement that the competition will run on its own.

"It's probably not the way we envisioned the competition to become standalone but I think it will allow us a platform to see where we stand," Wheeler told NRL.com.

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"And who knows, if we can all really put on a show it might help us build a case to keep it standalone.

"People who come to games, we know they're coming for us instead of being there for the men's game.

"Not that it's ever been a bad thing to play before them but it allows us to stand with a bit of power and know that the day itself was about our game.

"If we can also play some games unaffected with crowd restrictions we might get a new audience after many couldn't get out and watch in person this year.

We're going to be one of the only competition's going ... we'll have a lot of eyes on us

NRLW star Corban McGregor

"I just think it will lift a lot of spirits. The boys will be finished and people still want their footy fix."

Wheeler was a part of two of the NRLW's first standalone games in 2019 which included the Dragons playing against the Warriors in Auckland and the Roosters at Leichhardt Oval.

"The Leichhardt game was really cool with a few thousand fans there but even if you've got a handful of supporters it's a place that can seem like a lot more," she said.

"We've also seen with Origin that we can fill grounds. I think if we can get the timings and locations right people will come out and support with not a lot of other sports on."

The delay, however, will mean Wheeler and over 150 part-time NRLW athletes won't have played a game since June.

With pre-season training now pencilled in for August 30, players will have to prepare individually until further restrictions are lifted.

"We're very happy to be playing but just really want that pre-season," Wheeler said.

"It's so important for us, it's a long time between playing. It will have been four months for me."

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The last time the likes of Wheeler and Roosters captain Corban McGregor played was for NSW in women's Origin on June 25.

"I think everyone is very happy we've been guaranteed that the competition is going ahead but it's a long time between footy," McGregor said.

"It doesn't change too much, everyone is keeping fit. We just have to switch on mentally when we start training as a team. It's going to be a different preparation.

"The positive is we're going to be one of the only competition's going in Australia so we'll have a lot of eyes on us which is a great thing."

Botille Vette-Welsh passes for NSW.
Botille Vette-Welsh passes for NSW. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Parramatta recruit Botille Vette-Welsh is one player under strict lockdown in Sydney's west and is yet to meet her new teammates.

"I just get down to the park and complete my programs without going outside a five-kilometre radius," Vette-Welsh said.

"We've got no excuse to train because not many of us are working and we've got the time.

"Game fitness is a bit different but being able to be at your peak fitness we can top it up later.

"The extra time gives a lot of Sydney teams the chance to get together when they can down the track and train for the first time.

"We want a good preparation leading into the season like everyone else."