The growing demand for expansion in the NRL Telstra Women's Premiership has received a boost with the third season recording its best numbers across most statistical areas in history.
As calls for the competition to be extended with more rounds or possibly a fifth and sixth NRLW team in 2021 continue, NRL.com stats indicate key improvements since the inaugural 2018 season.
After a dip in tries and overall points scored in 2019, the total figure for each got back on track in 2020 to leapfrog the past two seasons despite significant disruption in the lead-up to the competition caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The third season saw 36 of the 88 players across four squads make their NRLW debut for a 40.9% squad turnover rate.
This figure was heavily inflated by the withdrawal of all but five Warriors players from their previous campaign.
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Warriors and Jillaroos coach Brad Donald, who will be part of discussions around the NRLW's next move with expansion, believes the fast-tracking of players this year will benefit the competition in 2021.
"It's only a small set of data but if you look at the fact a lot of the players who stepped up for those who weren't able to play, it shows there is quality in the next group of players," Donald told NRL.com.
"That can be attributed to all sorts of thing but one is probably the state competitions, where those girls were ready.
"The next step is to get a talent equalisation across another one or two teams."
The Broncos, with the help of their grand final win, accumulated almost half of the competition's points with 110 in four games at an average of 27.5 points scored.
Broncos fullback Tamika Upton led the competition with five tries, while winger Meg Ward was the leading point-scorer with 30, taking her two points shy of 50 points scored in her NRLW career.
Upton also finished on top in line breaks with six as the overall number across the NRLW jumped to 66 – an increase of 37.5% on last season.
Roosters bench utility Quincy Dodd joined Warriors pair Evania Pelite and Ellia Green on four line breaks for the season.
Pelite proved most difficult to handle for the opposition with 22 tackle busts in three games as the number rose slightly above last year's figure overall.
"Those girls (Pelite and Green) were enormous for us at the Warriors, just with the level of professionalism they brought from being in a full-time environment at rugby sevens," Donald said.
"They're naturally amazing athletes and it's something as a game we have look at to moving forward, how can we can get players individually better if they're not in the full-time environment."
Green with space. Goodbye.
Offloads also took another significant increase in 2020 with 100 recorded across the 10 matches played.
Broncos pair Amber Hall (9) and Chelsea Lenarduzzi (8) were the chief destroyers in the competition with Warriors forward Tazmin Gray (7), Dragons prop Elsie Albert (6) finishing in the top four.
"Offloads is definitely something we're continuing to encourage and some teams are doing it better than others," Donald said.
"It's almost doubled in two years and that's a strategy coaches are starting to use.
"The Broncos were really good at it this year, particularly Chelsea, that attends to her team as they can play off her and find some broken defensive line."
The yardage game was another area that saw improvement with a nine-metre carry recorded on average for every run.
This figure rose by half a metre on last year, with more metres were gained overall despite fewer runs recorded in 2020.
Upton, Hall and Millie Boyle were among the best for the Broncos for yardage with Roosters trio Kennedy Cherrington, Yasmin Meakes and Corban McGregor among the busiest for the runners-up.
NSW stars Isabelle Kelly (126m) and Jess Sergis (118m) were the best for the Dragons while Roosters star Charlotte Caslick averaged 141.2 metres in her first two games before succumbing to injury.
Post-contact metres also saw a rise by 15.8% on last season to continue an upwards trend.
"Generally, it's great to track this stuff and from a coaching perspective we're working on a lot of data with Griffith university around that and injury surveillance," Donald said.
"We're looking at the intensity of the game, how quickly the players are moving and the number of injuries that come because of it.
"The game is definitely getting better and as we bring new players in we want those small areas to be maintained."
In the discipline space, errors and completion rates increased and decreased respectively compared to last year.
The Warriors recorded the best completion rate of any side with 70.7%, while Roosters playmaker Zahara Temara made the most errors with six in four games with Meakes, Sergis and Julia Robinson all recording five individually.
"The ball was getting past around a bit more and there was a big turnover of players in each of the squads with limited time in preparing," Donald said.
"I wouldn't say the error count across the game is necessarily a bad thing as a few more points were scored.
"The quality was still there. We want to see the players throwing the ball around more and trying things when the time is right."
A tweak in the recording of data around supports and decoys is understood to be the reason behind the large decline in numbers in those areas.
Meanwhile, the kicking games across teams continues to be a challenge, particularly with kick pressures increasing from just 24 to 136 over the past two years.
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"It's just about changing the education around the kicking game," Donald said.
"When I first got involved in the women's game a lot of the talk was about getting to your sixth tackle and just kicking it as far as you can.
"Now with specialist kicking coaches at NRLW clubs the players are starting to learn when to kick, kicking early and strategy kicks from scrums.
"The players spend a lot of time on it. I've seen a lot of her games but I thought Ali Brigginshaw's kicking game in State of Origin was the best I've seen it.
"We've definitely got players who understand that it's a really big component of the game now."