Ali Brigginshaw celebrates with Julia Robinson after the Broncos’ triumph in the 2018 NRLW grand final. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Ali Brigginshaw celebrates with Julia Robinson after the Broncos’ triumph in the 2018 NRLW grand final. Picture: Phil Hillyard

Expansion on hold as NRLW 2019 fixtures locked in

An extended women's NRL season and the inclusion of new teams has been put on the back burner for at least another year with the sport opting to consolidate before expanding.

Rather than add extra clubs or games, the NRL will stick with the formula proven to be a success in the first year of four teams and a four-week competition.

Also returning for 2019 will be the highly successful women's stand-alone State of Origin match at North Sydney Oval.

The inaugural season of women's NRL was a big hit among fans and players, with both groups keen to see more games played in 2019.

The NRL has chosen to follow a more cautious approach with the newest elite women's league in the country as it works to expand the player pool of talent.

Critics of an early expansion cited concerns over player fatigue and impacting the quality of the competition.

They believe a softly-softly approach will make the competition more viable in the future and gam friendly.

"I think there is a lot of benefit in offering the same, learning more before we expand," said NRL general manager of the women's elite program, Tiffany Slater.

In 2019 the competition will again boast the Broncos, Dragons, Roosters and Warriors and will be played alongside the men's NRL finals series.

 

Ali Brigginshaw makes a break for the Broncos during the NRLW grand final. Picture: Brett Costello
Ali Brigginshaw makes a break for the Broncos during the NRLW grand final. Picture: Brett Costello

 

"In speaking with our stakeholders and importantly, our players over the past few months, the overwhelming response is that we're on the right path and to keep expansion of the game in check with our participation numbers and player wellbeing top of mind," Slater said.

The NRL has now released its calendar of events for 2019 with the stand alone State of Origin to remain and be played at North Sydney Oval on June 21.

A record crowd of close to 7000 attended the game in 2018 with broadcast numbers also reaching new heights.

 

Maddison Studdon celebrates NSW’s State of Origin victory with supporters at North Sydney Oval. Picture: Getty Images
Maddison Studdon celebrates NSW’s State of Origin victory with supporters at North Sydney Oval. Picture: Getty Images

 

The women's national championship will be played on the Gold Coast between May 30 and June 2 with Indigenous and Maori All Stars teams playing as part of the NRL All Stars double-header on February 15 at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

Other calendar highlights include four international women's teams competing in the Downer World Cup Nines at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney in October and the Jillaroos and an Australian Prime Minister's XIII playing international fixtures towards the end of 2019.