Cronulla and St George Illawarra express interest in fielding women's teams in the NRL's inaugural female competition in 2018

Bright future: Cronulla Sharks and Jillaroos stars Corban McGregor (left) and Ruan Sims at the press conference for the launch of a women's NRL competition. Picture: AAP
Bright future: Cronulla Sharks and Jillaroos stars Corban McGregor (left) and Ruan Sims at the press conference for the launch of a women's NRL competition. Picture: AAP

Cronulla and St George Illawarra have expressed interest in fielding women’s teams in the NRL’s inaugural female competition next season.

In a historic day for women’s rugby league, the NRL announced on Wednesday a round-robin tournament will run in the lead-up to and alongside the NRL finals series in 2018.

The tournament will culminate on grand final day, as part of a triple header, and a standalone State of Origin match has been scheduled for mid-season. 

In addition, players will be offered national team contracts, with the Jillaroos also set to play matches in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

Six NRL clubs will be granted licenses to run women’s teams in the new competition, with Cronulla in particular a likely destination given their support of women’s rugby league in recent years.

Sharks CEO Paul Eriksson said the club would need more information but were committed to having a “good look” at the proposal.

“We welcome and support today’s announcement by the NRL in relation to the women’s game,” he said.

The women's rugby league World Cup was a big success in the shire. Picture: John Veage

The women's rugby league World Cup was a big success in the shire. Picture: John Veage

“We understand that over the next three months the NRL will manage a process to bid on one of the six licenses. However, we’ve yet to see the bid document and understand the full requirements. 

“In time we will have the opportunity to have a good look at it and to determine whether we bid for one of the licences on offer.” 

Cronulla have been a strong supporter in growing women’s rugby league in recent years. The Sharks were the first club to contract female players and held a number of exhibition games prior to NRL fixtures as part of their women’s series last season.

The Sharks have also promoted a junior female pathway through their junior league and league touch participation. Cronulla also fielded an under-18s team in the Tarsha Gale Cup last season and will again in 2018.

Cronulla’s home ground at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Woolooware, also held the entire group stage and semi-finals of the women’s rugby league World Cup last month. 

Meanwhile St George Illawarra CEO Peter Doust confirmed the Dragons were also interested in securing a license.

“St George Illawarra and particularly Illawarra Rugby League have been instrumental in the development of interest in women’s rugby league over many years now,” he said.

“We have certainly expressed our interest already to the NRL about having a St George Illawarra Dragons team as part of the inaugural women’s premiership.

"Given the support and structure that we already have within our region for women’s rugby league we believe it is logical and appropriate that the Dragons are included.”