This year's South East Queensland Women’s rugby league competition starts this weekend with 27 teams competing across three divisions.
The surge in women participating in rugby league has been felt across the country and the South East corner is home to some of the best women’s rugby league in the country.
Tahnee Norris, a decorated former Jillaroo and current coach of three-time defending Division 1 champions Burleigh, said it is an exciting time not only for the code at large, but for the SEQ competition.
With extra teams playing across three divisions, it gives players young and old a place to develop without being forced out should they not make a division one team.
“It’s so good to see so many girls that want to play the sport and that they have so many opportunities to do it,” Norris said.
“When you’re trying to get a spot in a Div 1 team and you’re competing against Australian representative players, obviously it’s hard to put those players on and develop them.
“In the past, if you’re on the Gold Coast and you couldn’t make this Division 1 team that was it; now there are other teams in Division 2 and Division 3 that are giving opportunities to young girls coming through or to older girls for that matter that just want to give it a go. It’s exciting.”
That growth in lower divisions is mirrored by the growth at the elite level with the launch of the NRL women’s competition imminent.
The carrot of potentially earning a spot in the national competition is drawing elite athletes from other sports over to rugby league and will only strengthen the senior SEQ competitions.
“Now that they are offering contracts to people to play in NRL teams, plenty of girls are putting their hands up that want to play footy at the moment,” Norris said.
“We’ve seen it at the Burleigh Bears as well. We’ve grabbed a number of different players from other sports that are looking to make it in the NRL now. I think that will go across the board for all the teams that are competing in this competition.”
Burleigh will open the 2018 competition tomorrow (Saturday, March 17) when they host Easts Tigers at Pizzey Park from 11.15am.
The Bears will be without several of their representative stars, but Norris is confident that the three-time champs have a strong enough culture to be competitive without them.
“They’ll definitely step up,” she said. “We’ve had some tough trial games as well where we’ve had to rely on our non-representative players to really put in and show some real ticker, which has been great, and we’ll be expecting that to happen again on Saturday.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, Brothers Ipswich will host the Wests Panthers while on Sunday, Souths Magpies will hit the road to take on the newly promoted Toowoomba.