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Northern Rivers Titans enjoy explosion in female numbers

The interest in women’s Rugby League at the Northern Rivers (NR) Titans is rapidly growing if open trials that were held recently in the area are anything to go by.

“It has been a struggle to put together teams over the previous years due to limited tackle competitions available in our area,” Titans coach Chris Kirkland said.

“We had over 40 girls register to trial, which has been the most successful trial to date. Years gone by; we haven't had to hold trials as we were scratching to just get a team together.”

The 2022 season had the NRRRL (Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League) stage their first Women’s Premiership. As a result, that’s boosted the talent and participation for players now wanting to be in the Northern Rivers Titans Open Women's Country Championship team.

Kirkland believes there are other factors behind the better response in 2023.

“I’ve been doing this job for four years and it was definitely the best turnout we’ve had probably on the back of a few other things: the women’s RISE program, the amount of NRLW on the television, and the success of the Jillaroos,” he said.

“I think they all did us some favours. The development of the women’s game is going pretty fast with all the new NRLW teams (from six to 10 in 2023) and the promise of more to come.”

Rookie RISE is a program for females 17 years and over. It started in September last year and has been running monthly giving girls strength and conditioning programs as well as focusing on contact drills to get them ready for their upcoming competitions and representative seasons. 

“I’ve never seen so many younger females – 17, 19, 20-year-olds – turn up that haven’t been around Rugby League before,” Kirkland said.

“Predominantly the squads in the past three seasons of rep football have been older girls.

“But this year we’ve got some state netballers, rep hockey players and a fair-few touch footballers, who have come readily into Rugby League.”

The higher numbers and a change in format for the Country Championships will work wonders, according to Kirkland.

This year instead of several rounds, four matches will be played on the one weekend in April in Coffs Harbour for the Northern Division (which includes the NR Titans). The Southern Division will play in Goulburn.

“This has allowed more opportunity for more players to be involved with minimal travel and not having to take a day off work,” Kirkland said.

“The way it’s structured is that more girls get more games. We’re allowed to take 22 players on the weekend and all 22 will play. In the past only 17 have been allowed to play each game. Now it’s 18 with unlimited interchange.

“Whoever came up with that needs a real pat on the back, because coaching women’s Rugby League in a men’s format has been really difficult.

“To have unlimited interchange is awesome, having 18 players is awesome, and to have 22 players over the course of a weekend is great.

“We’ve turned girls away before and we’ve lost them to the game. They might have been number 18 or 19 but didn’t get selected and they didn’t come back for the next round a few weeks later – that was an opportunity missed.

“Now we’ve got that opportunity and more game-time for the girls.”

The winners of the Northern and Southern Divisions will play in the Country Championships Grand Final in Sydney on the same day as the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership, and the Harvey Norman Tarsha Gale Cup Grand Finals – Sunday 30 April.

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New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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