The Australian Rugby League Commission has approved the expansion of the NRL Telstra Women's Premiership, Ampol Women's State of Origin and the introduction of a salary cap system which will increase average salaries by 28%.
To ensure new teams have time to prepare and allow further talent development, the 2022 NRLW season will remain at six teams before expanding to eight teams in 2023 and 10 teams in 2024. The Commission will determine new licences by July this year.
For the 2022 season, NRLW teams will move to a salary cap system with the salary cap set at $350,000 per team. The new system will increase average salaries by 28% and clubs will also be given the ability to contract up to two marquee players as full-time employees with additional salary cap dispensation. Private Health insurance will also be covered for all contracted NRLW players.
In 2022 Representative payments will increase substantially. State of Origin match payments will increase from $4000 to $6000 while All Stars payments will increase from $1,600 to $3000. From 2023, the Ampol Women's State of Origin will expand to a 2-game stand alone series, with both games aired live on free-to-air television.
The Commission has also approved substantial increases in investment of junior female participation and pathways programs, including national age group championships as well as coaching and referee academies.
NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said the Commission is committed to a sustainable growth strategy of the women's game from grassroots participation to the elite level.
"Today is an exciting day for the women's game. We're expanding to eight teams in 2023 and 10 teams in 2024. We're also introducing a salary cap for next season and creating the opportunity for more players to access full time employment through their club,'' he said.
"The expansion of the NRLW competition and the introduction of the salary cap will ensure players earn substantially more income from our game.
There's still a long way to go but this is another positive step in our growth journey for the NRLW.
NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo
"We're experiencing significant growth in television audiences and that's down to the players and the Commission will continue to invest and support that success.
"Importantly the announcements today are about ensuring a sustainable NRLW competition. We've always been very clear that we would ensure our playing talent is deep enough and our clubs are prepared before expanding. The lead-in time ahead of the next expansion phase will ensure our clubs have the right infrastructure in place and there is even more depth to our playing talent."
Mr Abdo said all existing NRL Clubs would have the ability to submit applications to join the 2023 or 2024 seasons. The NRL will work with interested clubs over the coming months with the Commission to make final assessments and approve licence applications in July.
The Commission will focus on investment in female pathways to ensure the playing talent pool continues to grow.
"Today is not just about the elite game, it's also about building stronger participation and pathways," he said.
"The Commission is focussed on building the women's game from the bottom up. Not just encouraging more participation as players but also more female coaches and female referees. Right across the game we will continue to work to create pathways for women regardless of whether they want to play, coach, referee or be an administrator."
Mr Abdo thanked the NRLW playing group and RLPA for their input throughout the process.
"I want to thank our players. They were incredibly patient while we ensured we could launch a 2021 season which gave everyone the opportunity to play and we've had really constructive conversations with the RLPA about the next steps in our growth strategy," he said.
"I also want to acknowledge our partners. Particularly Telstra along with Nine and Fox Sports who are incredibly committed to growing, investing and promoting the women's game."