The Jillaroos celebrate their victory over the Kiwi Ferns at Suncorp Stadium.

Women set for new Dally M award

Women's rugby league will be recognised at the Dally M awards on Monday night with a Female Player of the Year set to be crowned for the first time.

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Jillaroos captain Steph Hancock has been nominated for the prestigious Female Player of the Year award alongside Australian teammates five-eighth Jenni-Sue Hoepper, winger Karina Brown and lock Simaima Taufa.

Participation in women's rugby league jumped a staggering 26 per cent this year as more pathways are created for women to be involved in the game.

The recent success of the Jillaroos and an increased focus on the women's game has definitely contributed to a boon in the sport's popularity.

"The reason I'm still playing is that I have a lot of young kids that look up to me and want to achieve what I have achieved in the game," Jillaroos captain Steph Hancock told NRL.com.

"I'm not trying to talk myself up, but it is great that young girls can see that if they really want it, they can take rugby league all the way to playing for Australia.

"It is great for them that they can start playing footy at their country club and can work their way up to a South East Queensland or Queensland team, then an Australian team. If that is what they want to aspire to become, they can see that it is possible." 

There are now more than 11,600 women and girls playing Rugby League, a jump of 26 per cent on last year, with female participation across all age groups in Sydney, country NSW and Queensland showing strong signs of growth.

It is an area the game will continue to look to foster and grow according to NRL Head of Game Development, Andrew Hill.

"A jump of more than 25 per cent in the number of women and girls playing rugby league shows our expanded playing options are making the game more attractive," Hill said. 

"There is now the option to play touch and league tag, as well as tackle, and mothers in particular have responded very positively. 

"Rugby league caters for boys and girls of all sizes, ages and abilities."

It is a big growth area for the NRL, and while the numbers are still modest at the moment, a lot of time and resource is being pumped into getting more women to play the game. 

The Jillaroos have become a key focus for the game and it is hoped their success and more exposure will filter down to all levels.

"Looking at a local schoolgirls comp, there were six teams last year and I think they'll have 20 this year. So it shows how much the game has grown and how much potential is there," Hancock said.

"When I was playing under 7s and 8s, I wasn't allowed to play after that for a few years, but now with the development of the game, you can pretty much play the whole way through and that is great. 

"If we can continue to build that and give the girls the same opportunities the boys get, that would be awesome and that is what we are trying to do."

The Female Player of the Year will be announced at the Dally M Awards at The Star in Sydney on Monday night.

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