The Queensland Rugby League’s announcement that its elite female players will earn $15,000 for representing the Maroons in 2022 has generated widespread reaction across the game.
With their male State of Origin counterparts this year receiving $15,000 per match, many hailed it as a breakthrough pay deal for women’s sport and another important step towards equality.
Yet some have questioned the decision in the belief that the men’s Origin series generates significantly more revenue.
What they may not understand is how the payments are structured and why it will enable more female players to commit to rugby league at the highest level.
How much will the Maroons receive in match payments?
Queensland women’s players stand to earn up to $15,000 for the one-off Origin clash on June 24 if they are selected in the final 18-strong squad.
This breakdown consists of three components:
- $4000 compensation for their time to take off work to train, travel and recover;
- $7000 for each of the 19 players who enter camp ahead of the match;
- $4000 match fee for the final 18 selected players.
The match payments for women's Origin players was $3000 in 2021.
QRL CEO Rohan Sawyer said: "We have identified the commitment the players make to the Maroons by being part of the top squad through to June, and over this time we want to adequately remunerate them for their commitment”.
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What commitment is required of women’s Origin players?
A 32-player squad of Maroons hopefuls began training twice a week last April in preparation for this year's title defence at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
The eight training sessions players were in addition to their club commitments in the QRL’s BHP Premiership.
The squad was then reduced to 20 players, who went into camp for 10 days on the Sunshine Coast in the lead-up to Origin in June, many of whom took leave from their work and families.
NSW entered their camp four days after the Maroons and their players made similar sacrifices.
Maroons captain Ali Brigginshaw, who has a wife and two children, didn't see her family for three weeks in 2020.
"It takes the pressure off when you go to represent your state, the pressure of being away from your families and your jobs," Brigginshaw said.
"You've got a job to do with the Maroons and you go and do it, knowing that you’re fully supported by the QRL. I think it’s a big step from the QRL to make sure we’re aligned with the men’s team for the first time.”
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Have pay issues cost players their Origin spots?
Former Maroons and Jillaroos hooker Brittany Breayley withdrew from the 18-day commitment altogether due to work commitments.
Breayley was also one of two players who also withdrew from the Australian side for their Test match against New Zealand in 2019 due to inability to get time off work.
Maroons star Tamika Upton, who eventually quit her job in 2020, withdrew alongside Breayley due to her past employers not extending her leave following the NRLW season,
Maroons forward Tallisha Harden, a full-time speech pathologist, said the decision would ease a burden in her professional work life.
"In the past I've had to stress about leave and leave without pay," she said.
"When you’re younger and don't necessarily have a career yet you take for granted leave, annual and sick, but when you're older you count the hours, know exactly what you can and can't take.
"The opportunity to be remunerated and not have to stress is going to take a lot of burden off the girls."
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Will the NSW players receive a similar pay deal?
While the two states are fierce rivalries on the field, Sawyer said he hoped Queensland’s Origin counterparts would join them in providing more financial backing to the NSW women’s team.
With the 2022 financial year beginning on November 1, the NSWRL board was due to meet next week to consider the budget for the coming season.
NSWRL CEO David Trodden said plans for next year’s men’s and women’s Origin campaigns is on the agenda.
"The New South Wales Rugby League has always had an extremely strong commitment to the women’s game and supporting our elite women’s players, the Harvey Norman NSW Sky Blues," Trodden said.
"Any additional investment in the women’s game is a good thing and our approach to the women's Origin match for next year will be the subject of discussion at upcoming Board meetings."
Are there examples of financial parity within the game?
Organisers of next year's World Cup in England have set aside a $3.5 million funding pot to provide equal payments to every player and prize money for the women’s and wheelchair tournaments for the first time.
This is particularly significant for female players from smaller nations, such as Brazil, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands.
While tournament officials don’t pay the players directly, competing nations are required to pass on a minimum payment to their players under the terms of the participation agreement which ensures:
* female and wheelchair players will also receive participation payments for the first time;
* they will be equal to payments for players in the men’s tournament;
* the standard of accommodation, transport and training facilities will be the same across the tournaments.