2017 has been a year of exciting firsts for Women’s Rugby League and the Cronulla Sharks.
Ruan Sims made history as the first woman to ink a professional Rugby League player contract when she signed with the Sharks.
Cronulla’s first Women’s Series side took the world by storm, winning seven of their eight clashes this season.
The Sharks’ juniors excelled in NSWRL’s first Tarsha Gale Cup.
And Southern Cross Group Stadium will, for the first time, host a spread of Women’s Rugby League World Cup pool and finals matches in November.
Sharks CEO Lyall Gorman said that the Club has been working closely with both the NSWRL and NRL to grow the women’s game.
“We have been the leaders in bringing the women’s game to life this year, including having six games played as preliminary events before our NRL games.” Gorman said.
“It has been an outstanding success and really shone the light on our talented sportswomen,” he said.
“It has also been the catalyst for an accelerated strategic approach to review and advance the current pathway for females by both the NSWRL and the NRL.”
Gorman confirmed that the Sharks will remain committed to providing pathways for both male and female elite athletes and will work to grow participation across all levels.
“I see the future of women’s football as being pivotal to the growth of the game across the board and especially at the junior and association level,” Gorman said.
“This will also make the game far more attractive at every level of the commercial aspects of the game including sponsorship, membership, match day attendance and overall brand perception.”
Women’s Rugby League is the fastest growing aspect of Rugby League, with over 180 000 girls and women playing the game across Australia. Women are professional players, referees, coaches and Club administrators.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg previously told the ABC that the NRL aspires to introduce more competition opportunities for professional female players. Mr Greenberg, however, stressed that establishing an unbroken pathway to take female players from junior competitions through to open representative competitions remains a current priority.
If the enormous success of the Tarsha Gale Cup is anything to go by, we may find ourselves celebrating the game’s first national women’s competition sooner than anticipated.