Club Statement: NRL Women's Premiership

The Cronulla Sharks were yesterday informed by the NRL of their decision not to grant our Club a franchise licence for the NRL Women’s Premiership (NRLWP).

With just four teams accepted from the six clubs to submit bids, the Sharks met with the NRL’s Head of Football Brian Canavan and Tiffany Slater, Senior Manager Women’s Elite Program, where they learnt their application to take part in the inaugural Women’s Premiership had been unsuccessful.

Not only did the Sharks break new ground in contracting women players in 2017 and in fielding a team in a series of promotional matches as curtain-raisers to NRL games, they have also put enormous time, effort and resources into the Club’s Tarsha Gale Cup team and in creating female pathways.  

The Sharks surprise and disappointment at the NRL’s decision stems from the thoroughness of their licence presentation, a submission they were told was amongst the best of those entered, emphasising their commitment to Women’s rugby league in the Sutherland Shire and to the NRLWP.

After being informed of the NRL’s decision, Sharks CEO Barry Russell expressed his frustration.

“I am extremely disappointed and dumbfounded by the decision,” Russell said. ‘’We have sound experience and in-depth knowledge of women’s rugby league after launching the Cronulla Sharks Women’s Series team and hosting the Women’s Rugby League World Cup in 2017.

“The focus our Club has given to the women’s pathway, from the Tarsha Gale team, to the introduction of League Touch and the commitment to offer the same opportunities to women as we do men, which all makes this decision difficult to comprehend.”

With the Club’s history of support for Women’s Rugby League, adding to the experience, expertise, resources, commitment and passion at the Club to ensure the competition would be strong and sustainable, the Sharks were confident they were in the best position to be one of the inaugural clubs in the NRL Women’s Premiership (NRLWP).

Financially the Sharks Women’s Premiership team had also received strong commercial support, including a six-figure jersey naming rights partner, should the licence submission had been successful.

“We have already shown a commitment to make a women’s team and program work within an NRL club setting and have been pioneers in women’s rugby league,” Russell said.

“We have numerous key learnings from our experience in 2016 and 2017 and first-hand practical knowledge of what it takes to ensure a sustainable, financially sound, entertaining, and game changing NRLWP team, program and competition.

“Our fans and Members want our Club to be one they can believe in, they want us to do things that matter and align with our Club’s vision and values. Having an NRLWP Team would have helped to complete us as a Club, while adding to our purpose,” Russell concluded.

Russell and Sharks Chairman Dino Mezzatesta will request a meeting with NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and NRL management seeking further clarification as to their unsuccessful licence application.