Jillaroos stars set for Commonwealth Nines
Players from the Jillaroos team which won the Rugby League Women's World Cup are set to be rewarded with selection for February's Commonwealth Nines Championships in Brisbane.
The tournament, which will be played on February 23-24 at Redcliffe's Dolphin Oval in the lead-up to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, will be the first outing for the Jillaroos since their 22-16 triumph over New Zealand in the World Cup final on December 2 at Suncorp Stadium.
It may also be the only time they play on home soil next year, with no venue decided for the end-of-season double-header between Australia and New Zealand men's and women's teams, and a return to Papua New Guinea with the Prime Ministers XIII yet to be confirmed.
However, the game's elite female players will have an increase in matches and exposure next season after last week's announcement of a Women's NRL Premiership to be played during and leading up to the NRL finals, with the grand final to be played at ANZ Stadium on NRL grand final day.
There will also be a State of Origin match – replacing the 19-year Interstate Challenge – played on Friday, June 22 at suburban Sydney venue, such as Kogarah or Leichhardt, which officials hope will attract a capacity crowd and free-to-air broadcast coverage on Channel Nine.
"For those girls who are playing at the top, if they play most games next year they are going to play around 20 games and hopefully all of them will be of a high standard," Jillaroos coach Brad Donald said.
The Commonwealth Championships will feature six teams – Australia, Canada, Cook Islands (both of whom played at the recent Women's World Cup), Fiji, Samoa and Tonga – and Donald said the Jillaroos squad would be made up largely of players from the World Cup.
"We will reward the girls who have just come through the World Cup," he said. "It is only a two-day tournament and we will probably only have a few days together before that."
Before then, Donald will help select 40 Jillaroos who will become the first players to receive NRL centralised contracts and attend a series of high-performance camps.
"Twelve months ago when the girls sat down, the greater achievement they were looking for was to elevate the game and put it on a stage where they could inspire girls and young women around Australia," Donald said.
"They had a bigger purpose in coming together than winning the World Cup and last week's announcement was just as important as winning the World Cup."