Club alliances set aside for women's opportunity
Australian representatives Isabelle Kelly and Simaima Taufa expect their Jillaroos teammates to put their club ties aside to help play an integral part in featuring in the NRL women's premiership in September.
After Tuesday's announcement that four clubs – St George Illawarra, Sydney Roosters, Brisbane Broncos and the Warriors – were given the green light to compete in the inaugural competition later in the year, clubs will now begin negotiating with players to complete their squad lists.
Experienced leader Ruan Sims has been a contracted player for the Cronulla Sharks over the past two seasons but is now a free agent for the competition after the Shire-based club were overlooked, along with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Along with Sims, several players are already linked to NRL clubs across state-based competitions in both NSW and Queensland but will now have the option to join a rival club for the round-robin tournament.
Fellow teammates Lavina O'Mealey, Maddie Studdon and Nakia Davis-Welsh have strong ties to the Rabbitohs and currently represent the club through the Harvey Norman NSW Women's competition, while Elianna Walton is a Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs junior, and Caitlin Moran a Newcastle product.
"It might be hard for the girls at first, they've grown up in those regions and are passionate about that team but at the same time being in the first ever women's premiership is going to override that," Kelly told NRL.com, who herself is from the Central Coast.
"My favourite team wasn't picked but I'm absolutely stoked to go play for another club. The emotional side will get put away and they'll see the importance overtime."
Taufa said the recent World Cup success and selfless attitude within the squad to drive women's rugby league into a new chapter would outweigh club alliances.
A product of Western Sydney, Taufa applauded the teams awarded and hoped more clubs would be involved in the near future.
"Regardless of the passion for their footy team, when it comes to the girls involved in our side, they're looking beyond what they can achieve as individuals," Taufa said.
"Just to be involved in a club environment is going to be fun in itself. You know it's an exciting time when the people behind the scenes have scoped everything out. We trust our team, coaches and their process to pick the right clubs."
Question marks over the NRL's decision to announce only a four-team competition was explained by CEO Todd Greenberg on Tuesday, who said player quality and workload were a priority.
"We take it one year at a time," Taufa agreed.
"There are so many talented girls in New Zealand and a lot who play here, too. Just to have a team and push their participation levels.
"As elite athletes, we have to make sure the product is there then hopefully in the future four teams becomes six and six becomes eight. That's our goal, to keep building from here."