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Cronulla have become the latest club to confirm their intent to take part in the expanded NRLW competition in 2023, with Sharks executives joining their women's players in hand-delivering the club's application to NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo on Friday.

On the final day for submissions to be entered, over 20 of the club's women's players and club officials, along with CEO Dino Mezzatesta, exited the Cronulla team bus at Rugby League Central with their formal application in hand — confirming their desire for a license to enter the NRL's elite women's competition in 2023.

The ARL Commission confirmed in March earlier this year that the 2022 NRLW season will remain at six teams before expanding to eight teams in 2023, before further expanding to 10 teams in 2024. The Commission will then make a determination on new licences by July this year, giving new clubs ample time to make preparations for their entry to the competition.

The Cronulla Sharks' formal application for an NRLW licence.
The Cronulla Sharks' formal application for an NRLW licence. ©NRL Photos

Cronulla already boast a host of NRLW talent in the club's Harvey Norman NSW Women's Premiership side, with Corban Baxter, Maddie Studdon, Tiana Penitani, Holli Wheeler, Quincy Dodd and Kennedy Cherrington all set to line up for the Sharks this Saturday in their season opener against Mounties.

World Cup-winning fullback Sam Bremner will also make her return after giving birth to her second child.

Sharks CEO Dino Mezzatesta with NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo at Rugby League Central
Sharks CEO Dino Mezzatesta with NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo at Rugby League Central ©NRL Photos

“You want to think about the criteria very carefully and geography is a big part of that, but also existing pathways and existing talent,” Abdo said last month. “Which clubs are going to invest all the way down to grassroots will be a key consideration, among many others.

“There is nothing stopping us thinking differently about where women’s clubs may be situated beyond an NRL club licence.

Sharks Head Coach Craig Fitzgibbon looks over the club's NRLW licence application
Sharks Head Coach Craig Fitzgibbon looks over the club's NRLW licence application ©NRL Photos

“The Commission is focussed on building the women’s game from the bottom up," he added. "Not just encouraging more participation as players but also more female coaches and female referees. Right across the game we will continue to work to create pathways for women regardless of whether they want to play, coach, referee or be an administrator.”

North Queensland also confirmed their submission on Friday, with Cowboys CEO Jeff Reibel saying the club was "ready to go" with their potential entry.

Cowboys formally submit bid for 2023 NRLW team


Several other clubs have signalled their intent to enter the 2023 competition, with the Raiders, Rabbitohs and Wests Tigers also formally submitting applications.

There has also been suggestion that the Panthers, Warriors and Storm could also be interested in lodging applications in the years to come.

A formal decision on which clubs will enter the 2023 NRLW competition will be made by the ARL Commission by July this year.

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