The New South Wales Rugby League has announced the formation of a new female competition, the Tarsha Gale Nines, to run alongside the Junior Representative Leagues, from 2017.
At a special Women's Parliamentary Reception in Sydney this afternoon celebrating Women in League, NSWRL Chairman Dr George Peponis OAM revealed the creation of the nine-week Under-18s nine-a-side tournament next year.
Named after the former Australian and NSW captain in the 1990s, the game-leading tournament, run alongside the existing Harold Matthews and SG Ball Cups Junior Representative Competitions, will develop the best of the best in the age group as NSWRL push towards an elite female league.
"The NSWRL is very excited by the opportunity this provides for female Rugby League players in NSW," Dr George Peponis said.
"Women play a huge role in the game of Rugby League – and the NSWRL is proud of its ever-increasing commitment to grow the game across this great state."
A five-year plan to introduce a complete women's representative pathways program in NSW will target an under-16s Junior Representative Competition in 2018 and an Elite Seniors Competition in 2019, with a view to launch a competition in line with the Intrust Super Premiership NSW in the next three to five years.
"The NSWRL continue to strengthen its commitment to the growth and development of the women's game, and the recent Interstate Challenge victory reflects just that," NSWRL CEO David trodden said.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for our female players. Women's Rugby League has come a long way in recent years and we are thrilled to introduce this game-changing Under-18s Junior Representative Competition."
The NSWRL has broken new ground in 2016 with new competitions providing more opportunities to female players – and a significant increase in resources provided to female pathway programs.
For the first time in its history, the Sydney Metropolitan Women's Competition has featured two divisions, while the Sydney Combined Competition has featured girls competitions in 13-15 years and 16-18 years for the first time.
With increased resources being allocated to Women's Rugby League in NSW over a number of years, these efforts finally came to a head with an historic NSW victory in the 2016 Women’s Interstate Challenge.