THE NRL is planning to launch a national women's rugby league competition next year in what would be a watershed moment for the female game in Australia.
On the eve of the Women's Rugby League World Cup final in Brisbane, details have emerged of the NRL's plans for a women's league to rival the AFLW.
It hopes to have the plans finalised by the end of the year and for the tournament to be launched in 2018 – which could involve both Bomaderry’s Talia Atfield (St George Illawarra) and Gerringong’s Ruan Sims (Cronulla).
Several details are yet to be finalised including what teams will be involved, whether they will be based on territories or existing NRL clubs, and for how long the competition will run.
The NRL has more meetings planned for next week.
It's understood the first edition of the league will be a condensed format and will run alongside the NRL finals in September-October, following the completion of the state-based NSW and Queensland women's competitions.
It's seen as the first step towards a women's professional NRL competition and it's anticipated the length of the tournament and number of teams will expand over the coming years.
Women's sport has undergone a boom in popularity with the Australian Jillaroos, AFLW, Australian women's cricket team and WBBL all proving viable drawing cards.
The Jillaroos have attracted big interest during the World Cup and will defend their crown against New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
Female rugby league participation went up by 32 per cent in 2017 and the women's game is the fastest growing area of the code.
There are now 90 female rugby league competitions across Australia and participants can now play from under-6s all the way through to seniors.
In years past, gaps in the female pathway have led to girls having to play up in age groups or leave the game entirely for years on end.
That lack of depth has been the big stumbling block in the establishment of a top flight national women's competition.
However, with the NSWRL and QRL making investments in their pathways, the NRL is hoping to hold onto more women and for longer.