2017 NRL - Grant Trouville © NRL Photos

Queensland Rugby League (QRL) and NSW Rugby League (NSWRL) have joined forces today for the historic announcement of Harvey Norman as the first major sponsor of women’s Rugby League and the unbroken pathway from Under 6 girls to Open representative competition in both states.

Harvey Norman’s support of the fastest growing segment in rugby league sets the important foundations for further developing the state pathways and talent pool for expansion of the women’s game.

The partnership with Harvey Norman includes naming rights of the Queensland and NSW Women’s Interstate Challenge teams (at Wollongong on July 23 and being broadcast live); female only coaching clinics, and grassroots female carnivals and programs in both states.

The partnership will help the QRL expand their Queensland Academy of Sport Girls program (introduced earlier this year for Under 15 girls) and ensure Under 14 and Under 16 girls continue to be given the opportunity to experience representative football at State Junior Carnivals, amongst other female-focused initiatives. 

In NSW, it will support their NSW City Origin team (May 13 match); NSWRL Open Women’s Combined Conference (starting April 22) and NSWRL Women’s Premiership (from April 29).

Harvey Norman CEO Katie Page said: “Harvey Norman is committed to supporting the development of female player pathways at all levels of rugby league.

“Today's announcement ensures girls from NSW and Queensland can chart their rugby league playing future, if their talent and commitment permits, all the way through to representative competition. 

"Both the NSWRL and the QRL understand the need for consistent opportunities for skill development and new competitive challenges for girls at every age.

“The next generation of female players, those coming through these newly formed ranks, will take Women's Rugby League to the next level."

QRL Managing Director Rob Moore and NSWRL CEO David Trodden joined Harvey Norman National Promotions and Sponsorship Manager Stephanie Crockford to make the announcement at a Harvey Norman Girls’ Pathways Clinic at Mount Pritchard today in Sydney’s south-west today.

Trodden said: “This is an historic day for New South Wales Rugby League and the QRL to secure a sponsor for the women’s game and female pathways programs and we are delighted to be forming that partnership with Harvey Norman.”

Moore added: “Both ourselves and the NSWRL have worked hard to build genuine pathways for girls and women to play rugby league with initiatives at school and club level; while also investing resources in developing our elite representative players.”

"The ultimate goal is to provide healthy competitions for women and girls to take part in." - Neil Wharton

Building sustainable competitions remains a key focus, with the QRL taking a coordinated approach with schools to provide a strong base for participation. This year has seen the implementation of the Karyn Murphy Cup, a new statewide competition offered across four age groups (11-12 years [Year 5 and 6 only]), Year 7-8, Year 9-10 and Year 11- 12).

QRL Head of Football Neil Wharton said the organisation would also continue to invest in club-based opportunities for women and girls by providing strong competitions across the three QRL Divisions – SEQ, Central and Northern.

“The ultimate goal is to provide healthy competitions for women and girls to take part in,” Wharton said.

“The long-term goal in the female game is to provide opportunities to be involved – just like males in our game – at all age groups.”

NSWRL Football General Manager BJ Mather said it was important to build a healthy pathway through the state competitions which will result in a higher standard of competition.

“Ultimately we are building towards a state-based semi-professional women’s competition in the next three years to provide players the opportunity to get used to playing that level of competition regularly,” Mather said.

“At a representative level, 2018 will see our Interstate Women’s competition given Origin status and the match will be played as a double-header with one of the men’s Origin games.”

In an added boost for the Queensland Women’s team – this year RE/MAX (Cairns) have signed on as a sleeve sponsor. Broker and owner Tony Williamson said RE/MAX was 100% behind the support of women’s sport and it was exciting to see the women’s game growing.

“For years, women have been the backbone of rugby league from the other side of the fence; driving kids to games, working the canteens, right through to administration and coaching,” Mr Williamson said.

“But now women and girls can engage with the Greatest Game of All from both sides of the fence; and participate in rugby league and represent at the highest level.”