News / Sport / 26th August 2021
Numbers surge for women’s rugby league competition
Castlereagh Cougars Women’s Rugby League Club is currently taking registrations from players for the coming season and is seeing a response that reflects the increasing popularity of the game across NSW.
The NSW Rugby League (NSWRL) recently announced that female participation had hit record numbers this season, with around 23,000 signing up to play the game, compared to 18,915 in 2019.
This year the Cougars have five teams to fill and club president, Sam Turnbull said they had already closed the books for the Opens and Under 16s because they had reached their capacity of 22 players allowed under the rules.
“We’ve had lots and lots of interest this year,” Ms Turnbull said.
“Registrations have been going really well, but we still have places in the 18s,14s, and 12s.”
As well as girls and women from the traditional Castlereagh towns of Coonamble, Gilgandra, Coonabarabran, Baradine, Coolah, Dunedoo and Warren, the Cougars have this picked up players from the Barwon Darling area.
“We have one from Walgett, a few Bourke girls in the Opens and the younger age groups and a good solid group from Cobar this year,” Ms Turnbull said.
“We have players from pretty well all the towns.”
With the first round due to start on 17 and 18 September, Ms Turnbull said her committee was about to release their training dates when the latest COVID lockdown was announced.
“We’re currently waiting to see what happens,” she said.
“The training days will mostly focus on the juniors to bring them together and teach them proper tackling and that sort of thing.
“A lot of the Opens’ players are still in the league-tag season.
“We were hoping to have a day this weekend actually, but we’re not there yet.”
The NSWRL said there has been 104 per cent growth in the number of female players across Group 14 since 2019 with the Cougars, who started in 2018 with just two grades, contributing at least 20 per cent.
Ms Turnbull said that almost all other clubs in Group 14 have seen amazing growth and she expects the numbers will continue to increase as the season gets underway.
Cougars will line up against the Mid West Brumbies (formerly Mudgee Dragons), Panorama Platypi (Bathurst), Wiradjuri Goannas (Dubbo), the Orange Vipers and Woodbridge (the small central west towns reaching from Canowindra to Peak Hill).
“I’m pretty sure some of the Goannas’ grades are full because we’ve had expressionsofinterestfrom girls in Narromine and Nyngan who are within the Wiradjuri boundary,” Ms Turnbull said.
“Once they’re full, the rules allow their players to try Castlereagh or Woodbridge.”
The 2021 competition is to include eight games across a round and a half.
“If we get started it should be good, especially with the Cougars coming out as a stand-alone club,” Ms Turnbull said.
“Up until this year we were tucked under the umbrella of the men’s Castlereagh Rugby League and we’ve definitely been able to make it more focused on female participation and growing the pathways for young girls coming up.”
Preparing girls to take advantage of the broader opportunities in rugby league has become a key factor for the Cougars’ new leadership.
The NSWRL runs the state’s premier women’s competition, the NSW Women’s Premiership, and provides another valuable pathway with the Tarsha Gale Cup for Under 19’s participants.
These competitions flow into NSW Rugby League representative fixtures including the City v Country match, the NSW Under 19s Women’s Origin team, and the NSW Sky Blues.
Ms Turnbull believes it is state and national women’s rugby league competitions, with televised games, that underlies the surge in interest from females wanting to play the game.
“I think it’s definitely the NRLWomen’sPremiership particularly, and the comps you can see on TV that’s driving it,” she said.
“And we also had all that exposure form those girls who came out of our competition last year who played in the NSW team.
“We’ve got a real focus on pathways for our under 18’s teams.”