NRL talks NRLW future with female stars

Ex-Jillaroos skipper Sam Bremner (R) says players were
Ex-Jillaroos skipper Sam Bremner (R) says players were "gutted" to learn of NRLW plans in the media.

Anxious NRLW players were assured they have not been forgotten by the NRL during the coronavirus shutdown in a video call with Todd Greenberg on Monday.

Rugby League Players' Association chief executive Clint Newton and NRL boss Greenberg presented a united message to NRLW stars to ease fears their season has been abandoned without consultation.

Both bodies have been criticised for not communicating clearly with the game's female players over the shutdown, which has caused a financial catastrophe within rugby league.

Last week, former Jillaroos captain Sam Bremner said players were "gutted" to learn via media reports the NRLW competition could be scrapped and felt as though they had been abandoned by the NRL.

However, Greenberg and Newton committed to fortnightly check-ins with the players and said the NRL was taking a 'whole of game approach' to the resumption of the season, which includes the women's competition.

"The meeting was an opportunity for our members to be provided with an update from the NRL on the current state of the women's game," Lina Caccamo, the RLPA's player operations manager for elite women, said.

"It's important now more than ever that players are provided with accurate information on a regular basis.

"The RLPA will continue discussions with the NRL regarding the women's game later this week."

During the call it was reiterated no decision had been made, and that the NRL is working through what a reinstated competition would look like, as well as a model to present to broadcasters.

NRLW did not exist when the last broadcast deal was struck but, in news that was positively received by the playing group on Monday, the competition could be captured as part of their own TV deal from this season onwards.

Broadcast dollars would inject desperately needed money into the women's game and ease costs on clubs, who currently foot the entire bill to fund NRLW teams.

This bodes well for the women's State of Origin to be played in 2020 should the competition return, given the impressive ratings for the match across the past two years.

Appetite has been growing since the NRLW was instated in 2018 and the competition was set to expand this season.

During the NRLW Nines in February, the women's final between St George Illawarra and Brisbane drew 170,000 viewers on Fox League, while Saturday-round matches drew audiences of 89,000 and 64,000.

In comparison, two A-League games on the same night drew a combined audience of 34,000.

Australian Associated Press