ST GEORGE Illawarra CEO Peter Doust says the Dragons will make a strong push for inclusion when the NRL establishes it's first ever women’s competition in 2018 – which is good news for Bomaderry’s Talia Atfield.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg confirmed on Wednesday that the groundbreaking women’s league will feature six NRL-affiliated teams and be run in conjunction with next year’s finals series.
It will see 40 players receive Jillaroos contracts that entitle them to fully funded high performance camps and match payments for appearances in the competition and at rep level.
Greenberg said all NRL clubs will be invited to bid for entry into the new competition, saying he expected the process to be “serious and competitive.”
The Illawarra Rugby League has made huge strides in the development of the women’s game since establishing it’s women’s competition in 2011.
Current Jillaroos skipper Ruan Sims, from Gerringong, Kezie Apps, Sam Bremner, Corban McGregor and Maddie Studdon have all featured in the league since it’s inception.
A side made up of Illawarra league players also represented the joint-venture in its watershed Nines clash with Cronulla in 2016 – the first time women had ever turned out for NRL clubs.
Helensburgh pair Apps and Bremner are current Dragons ambassadors as the club looks to develop it’s female development pathways, while the Illawarra Steelers reached the semi-finals of the inaugural under 18s Tarsha Gale 9s competition this year.
Doust said the club’s efforts will ensure the Dragons make a compelling case to be one of the competition’s foundations teams.
“St George Illawarra and particularly the Illawarra Rugby League have been instrumental in the development of the interest in women’s rugby league over many years now,” Doust 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.”
Bomaderry’s Talia Atfield, who took out the 2016 Illawarra Coal Women in Defence League player of the year award, has represented the Dragons on a number of occasions in her career.
The Dragons inclusion in this competition would give Atfield more chances to pull of the red V jersey in the future.