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The under 16s and 18s captains at the 2019 Katrina Fanning Cup.

A long-term vision of fielding an Australian Schoolgirls side to play overseas is not out of reach with foundations being put in place to mirror the boys' program. 

The Australian Schoolboys program has been going for more than five decades with the likes of Greg Alexander, Brad Fittler and Danny Buderus among more than 50 representatives to have gone on and represented the Kangaroos.

More recently, teen sensations Sam Walker and Reece Walsh excelled at the schoolboy level in 2019 to later earn Telstra Premiership debuts at the Roosters and Warriors this season. 

NRL female participation coordinator Kate Parkinson told The Broader Game the groundwork was being done to offer young females more opportunities to play rugby league.

"The Australian Schoolboys program is a beast of its own, but we want to see the opportunities that are there for the boys, given similar to the girls," Parkinson said.

The Greater Northern team at the CHS trials with Sarah Togatuki and Jasmine Allende.
The Greater Northern team at the CHS trials with Sarah Togatuki and Jasmine Allende. ©NRL Photos

"We've learned with the boys they've got so many different avenues to go through on their way to the top. 

"For the girls, we've got a clean slate and we're able to strategically align with what's happening at the national strategy."

In NSW, a state championship is set to take place for the first time in October with teams representing Combined Catholic Colleges (CCC), Combined Independent Schools (CIS) and Combined High Schools (CHS). It is also hoped an ACT team can take part.

The NSW program will start with a heavy focus around under 16s and under 18s players in a bid to help fill a gap between the Lisa Fiola Cup (under 17s) and Tarsha Gale Cup (under 19s) in the state. 

The South Coast team at the CHS trials with NRLW star Simaima Taufa.
The South Coast team at the CHS trials with NRLW star Simaima Taufa. ©NRL Photos

"The under 16s age group is one of our largest participation areas through the Katrina Fanning Cup so we thought it was a good age to start," Parkinson said.

"The four school associations will pick their squads of 22 through their own processes before coming together in the championship later this year."

Parkinson noted, however, the CHS team would be declared an "invitational" side for the next two years until the sport is officially sanctioned.

"We're preparing our state to be ready for a possible National Championship in the future, whether it leads to an Australian Schoolgirls recognition which mirrors the boys, we're preparing for that.

"This is 18 months in the making, whereas Queensland is probably a bit more in advanced with their divisions across the state. Hopefully one day, we might be able to go to them and say let's create something bigger at the national level."

Queensland kicked off their first combined secondary schools state championships on Thursday afternoon in Cairns. 

NSW seek redemption, Maroons chase back-to-back

City-Country clash to choose NSW side

NSW coach Kylie Hilder will get a first look at who might be in her Origin side in June next week with a City-Country game scheduled at Bankwest Stadium on May 15.

With no NSW or Queensland opens sides featuring at the Harvey Norman National Championships later this month, Hilder indicated the City and Country squads will be at near full strength. 

"The game will be a great lead-in and crucial to selections for the Origin side," Hilder said.

"We've got the best 36 girls in the state coming up against each other. Obviously, if any one of those girls has got a niggling injury we won't risk them."

The NSWRL announced both squads for the clash on Thursday afternoon.

Incumbent NSW forward Millie Boyle is the only top-line player who won't be available for Country at this stage with the Jillaroos star unavailable due to work commitments.

"She's pursuing a career in the fireys and has a physical coming up which I'm very supportive of her doing that," Hilder said.

"She's disappointed but I had a good chat to her and it's certainly not the end of her chances of being in the side."

Last year's squad members Mel Howard and Shaylee Bent are also unavailable for the clash.

Ali Brigginshaw and Kezzie Apps at the launch of the 2021 Women's State of Origin.
Ali Brigginshaw and Kezzie Apps at the launch of the 2021 Women's State of Origin. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

Sky's the limit

Eagle-eyed observers couldn't help but notice a change in the NSW jersey worn by Kezie Apps at the Origin launch at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Tuesday.

The NSWRL remained tight-lipped when asked about the addition this week with further information likely to be officially announced soon.

The change is only set to apply to the women's team’s jersey but it looks like there’s plenty of blue sky on the horizon for Kylie Hilder’s side.

NRLW expansion not over line yet

Reigning Dally M medallist Ali Brigginshaw has welcomed the possibility of six teams being fielded in the NRL Telstra Women's Premiership this year but noted a lot of work was still required.

Brigginshaw has been a strong contributor in discussions around expanding the women's game in past years with the Maroons captain again honest when asked about the possibility this week.

"The game definitely needs to grow but we've got to do it right," Brigginshaw said.

"The support needs to be there. You can't expect girls to do double the work and take time off work without the financial support so we'll see what happens.

"If it works, that's amazing, but if not we need to keep working towards getting it right. The game is growing, but we've got to ensure it's left in a better place for the future."

Despite the possible impact another Queensland side coming into the NRLW could have on her beloved Broncos, she said the time was right to expand in the Sunshine State.

"It's definitely needed, with all the talent in the BHP Premiership and the 19s girls coming through now, it will need to be spread," she said.

"I don't want my Broncs girls going anywhere but we'll just see what happens, it's natural that we won't be able to hold onto them all."

Brisbane captain Ali Brigginshaw.
Brisbane captain Ali Brigginshaw. ©Keegan Carroll/NRL Photos

Young guns on show in Origin curtain-raiser

An under 19s game between NSW and Queensland will be played as a curtain-raiser to the women's Ampol State of Origin on June 25 after last year's clash was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Teams for both states are expected to be announced following the Harvey Norman National Championships later this month.

The women's game held its first Origin curtain-raiser in 2018, an under 18s representative match, with NSW running out 24-4 winners at North Sydney Oval.

NSW forward Filomina Hanisi was a graduate from that game, making her State of Origin debut 12 months later in last year's main event.

Mato out, but not for long

Maroons representative Shannon Mato will be available for Origin selection in June despite suffering a dislocated knee cap recently in the BHP Premiership.

Despite initial fears of a possible fracture, scans came back all-clear with Maroons coach Tahnee Norris expecting the rising forward to be back playing club footy at North Sydney by the end of the month.

The cross-code forward made an impact in her first season of rugby league last year after returning to the code following a stint in rugby union. 

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

 

Women’s Origin tickets are on sale via NRL Tickets. Supporters can watch the historic match from just $5 for juniors, $15 for adults and $35 for families