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The NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership is set to expand to eight teams in 2023 and that means more opportunities for aspiring coaches and high performance staff in the women’s pathways.

Around 60 of the next best women’s rugby league coaches and high performance staff assembled on the Gold Coast in the lead-up to the NRLW grand final last week for the second-ever coaching and performance conference.

The disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and postponement of the 2021 NRLW season has halted the momentum in this space but the two-day event allowed for people from across Australia to reconnect with elite mentors in the game.

Among the presenters and guest panel members included Maroons coach Tahnee Norris, who along with Titans coach Jamie Feeney, spoke of their experience building the new NRLW franchise.

Eels coach Dean Widders and former Knights assistant Jess Skinner joined former NRL player David Solomona to discuss the importance of culture, particularly in the Indigenous and Pacifica space.

Other discussions included an all-female panel talking women’s health from the menstrual cycle, breast health, well-being and the support systems in place for players who juggle their lives with rugby league.

Jillaroos coach Brad Donald watches a training drill example at the conference.
Jillaroos coach Brad Donald watches a training drill example at the conference. ©NRL Photos

Jillaroos coach Brad Donald, who is the general manager for player pathways at the NRL, said the conference was an opportunity for education and understanding the women's game to then springboard into positions.

“The most encouraging thing is the faces that were here a few years ago are now working in the NRLW environment,” Donald said.

“A lot of people talk about the pathways thinking it’s all about the players and while most of it is, you need strength and conditioning coaches to learn how to take a player from a community level through the pathways to the elite level.

"If we have four more NRLW teams in the next 18 months then that means we need four more head coaches and eight more assistants.

"We need more four more heads of performance, we’re into 100 more staff on top of developing players to get them ready for expansion.

"You need coaches who need to understand what that takes. A lot of these people are aspirational so the pathway is there for them."

Donald said with more coaches coming into the women's game, it was important to understand the different barriers associated with part-time female athletes.

"It’s so different. The physiology is different in a female so for us to understand that and what’s important to females in the game," he said.

Coaches gathered from across Australia to attend the event.
Coaches gathered from across Australia to attend the event. ©NRL Photos

"We love having a theme around camps and this one is connection and how female teams need to be connected and how we get that right.

"We had some great guest speakers over the weekend talking about culture in many ways – cultural identity, cultural awareness and understanding the difference between male and females in their psyche and social structure.

"It just shows the spirit and collaboration people have got to commit to the women’s space for it to remain healthy."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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