‘The right way forward’: NRLW takes giant leap with standalone clashes

Stakeholders on both sides of the white line are excited about the NRLW stepping into the spotlight with two standalone fixtures for the upcoming season.

Following the success of last year’s inaugural season and the women’s State of Origin, this year’s premiership will feature a standalone fixture each in Australia and New Zealand.

Dragons player Maddie Studdon, who played in this year’s State of Origin, says this year’s standalone matches are a step in the right direction. Credit: NRL Photos

The Warriors will host an as-yet-unnamed opponent at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium during round two on Sunday, September 22 while old foes St George Illawarra and the Roosters will lock horns at Leichhardt Oval the following week.

With just over a month until the season kicks off, the announcement has players excited that the sport is growing rapidly.

“Last time we didn’t know what to expect because it was all new and there was a lot of pressure in it, but this year, for myself, I am more relaxed and more settled and I know what to expect,” Dragons player Maddie Studdon said.

Studdon, who turned out for the Blues in this year’s Origin win at North Sydney Oval, says the standalone matches are a step in the right direction.

“I think the standalone games are the right way forward for women in league,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s just going the right way for womens’ sport.’’

Brisbane will face the Warriors on September 29 as part of a double-header on NRL preliminary final weekend. The final draw is yet to be announced and will be released at the conclusion of the men’s premiership.

“We think this is a really special moment for game and we think this is a step forward for women’s rugby league,’’ NRL general manager of elite competitions Jason King said.

“On the back of another hugely successful women’s State of Origin game, this evolution of the competition allows fans to have more women’s rugby league as its own event and more certainty around when and where games will be played.’’

Inner West Council mayor Darcy Byrne was particularly excited to be hosting a fixture at Leichhardt Oval, “the eighth wonder in the world.”

“The explosion of women’s rugby league is so exciting and to have these stars coming to play at our local ground is something that we welcome unambiguously,’’ he said, adding the council has invested heavily in attracting top-flight sport to the ground.

“With all the improvements we have made to Leichhardt Oval, the playing surface is in excellent condition and is ready to host first-class footy."

Captain of the NRLW Roosters team Simaima Taufa says the league's establishment last year has been a "dream come true" and introduced women “of every shape and size” to the sport.

“It's a jersey you have to work really hard for, and it's nothing I ever take for granted.”

As part of Women in League round, the men’s Roosters team have announced major sponsor Steggles will replace their logo with the name of the women players, with co-captain Jake Friend wearing Taufa’s name. For the 25-year-old, the news is an example of how far women’s sport has come in recent times.

“It is something I will always cherish. Just to see the names are there … is something I will be proud of and share for years to come,” she said.

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