Women in league of their own
IF YOU thought the inaugural season of NRLW was amazing, "you ain't seen nothing yet" according to Fox League analyst Hannah Hollis.
The NRLW took the sport by storm last year, when the four-week competition ran concurrently with the NRL finals.
The women consistently pulled crowd figures above 10,000, proving the fans were also behind the inclusive concept.
While the NRL has shied away from jumping on board the expansion bandwagon too early, the coming season of NRLW is still tipped to be bigger and better.
Hollis, who attended last season's opening clash between the St George Illawarra Dragons and eventual premiers the Brisbane Broncos, said last year's inaugural series was a milestone for the game.
"I felt so honoured and privileged to be part of such a watershed moment for the game of rugby league," she said.
"It was a historic moment. I was there for that very first game between the Dragons and the Broncos up at Suncorp.
"There were thousands of people in the stands. It just goes to show there is an appetite there and people want to see these women playing at the highest level.
"It was well overdue and then the girls went out and let their skills do the talking."
Hollis said the skills and structures so ingrained in last year's competition would only get better.
"The Broncos have got Scott Prince as part of their coaching staff and you can see that experience at the top level in the way the girls play," she said.
"It was so great to be able to see that level in the very first season.
"You would have almost forgiven the girls in the first year if they were a bit slippy and sloppy, but it wasn't that at all. It was fast, slick and good to watch.
"I think this year will only be bigger and better. People know what to expect, players know the level of competition coming their way.
"Last year it was all an unknown. How did teams even do their homework on the opposition?
"They can raise the bar again.
"What I learnt from the women is how professional they are. We know that some of them are mothers and some of them have full-time jobs, but they still put their all into the game. They will be looking for that extra edge within themselves."
The NRLW will again take centre stage at the end of the NRL regular season when last year's four sides - the Warriors, Broncos, Dragons and Sydney Roosters - reignite their rivalry.
While the desire of the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Cronulla Sharks to form women's sides has been noted by NRL officials, the choice was made to hold off on expansion until at least 2020.
It is a decision that Hollis believes will help push the NRLW to the forefront of women's sport.
"I think it is really smart that we haven't hit the panic button on expansion just yet," she said.
"I would hate for rugby league to expand too quickly and dilute the quality. You have a finite time to hook fans in and get them addicted to the quality and you can't afford to dilute that prematurely and risk losing people.
"I am all for long-term planning and future expansion but for now let's grow the women's game to the best it can be. Let's make it the benchmark for women's sport around the world and then move for expansion when we have the talent pool and talent pathways ready to deal with that."