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Corban McGregor

Jillaroos star Corban McGregor and Manly playmaker Trent Hodkinson expect the NRL's new League Stars program to inspire the next generation to take up the game.

Launched in Sydney and Brisbane on Tuesday, League Stars will teach boys and girls between five and 12 the core skills of rugby league through non-contact activities.

More than 100 eager primary school kids swarmed to Pioneers Park in Malabar to kick-off the program, with a near-even mix of genders revelling in the training.

League Stars ambassadors McGregor and Hodkinson were pleased to see the number of girls taking part.

"It's almost 50-50 with the girls there. It's just so good to see the kids having fun, they love this stuff," McGregor told

Inside the new League Stars program

"The ground that women's rugby league has made over the past few years has been enormous, but if it starts earlier we're going to be further along the line. Women's participation is growing, so we're doing something right."

With girls competitions now established so females are no longer forced to give up rugby league when they turn 12, McGregor is certain League Stars will bring an influx of young women to the sport.

The Sydney launch of the League Stars program.
The Sydney launch of the League Stars program. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"I remember when I was at school we never had anything quite like this, but I just loved being outside playing sport. You can see they're really reaping the benefits of it as well," McGregor said.

"It's great there's a full pathway and girls don't have to stop playing the sport they want to play."

As the mother of eight-year-old Carter, McGregor reckons League Stars is sure to be a hit with her son and his friends.

"[Carter] will love it. In the past he's had the NRL come to his school and do programs there," she said.

"He comes home and he tells me all about it and he loves it. He got his free footy and that's the stuff kids remember."

Hodkinson, a former NSW representative, lauded the program's inclusive nature.

"All the kids are getting amongst the drills and the activities and learning parts of the game, the skills that go with it and the agility," Hodkinson said.

It's almost 50-50 with the girls there. It's just so good to see the kids having fun

Corban McGregor at the League Stars launch

"It's all non-contact-based as well, so it's a great way to get involved in rugby league at an early stage and there's plenty of smiles getting around.

"It's a bit easier for the mums and the parents to get their kids involved in rugby league and they're having a lot of fun, which is good.

"A lot of the girls out there are good on their feet and they can run over the hurdles and beat plenty of the boys. It's good competition."

Hodkinson spied a slew of rising halfbacks at the League Stars launch, while McGregor is confident there were some future Jillaroos in the mix.

For McGregor, the crowd of enthusiastic girls showed how much influence she holds as a leading women's player.

The Sydney launch of the League Stars program.
The Sydney launch of the League Stars program. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"It's crazy ... When I go into camps for rep footy, we talk a lot about inspiring the younger generation and you're sort of like, 'Yeah, yeah, whatever'," she said.

"But when you get out here and you see them look up to you and you can see first-hand just how much it means to have a female role model, it's really special and something that I don't take lightly.

"It's really shone a light on the difference that I could make."

Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly referred to the participation rate in the South Sydney juniors as proof that female interest in rugby league is increasing.

And with League Stars' arrival, the figures should continue to head north.

"South Sydney Junior Rugby League this season had girls-only competitions for [under] eights, tens and twelves and attracted 200 new participants," Solly said.

"So there's clearly a hunger and an appetite from primary school and high school-age girls to play full-contact rugby league, and we just need them to give them the opportunity [to develop] in a really good environment." 

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