Jillaroos players Kezzie Apps and Sam Bremner

When Kezie Apps was searching five years ago for somewhere to play rugby league, one of the first competitions the Jillaroos star discovered was the Illawarra Women's League.

It's why Apps, who only learned that women's rugby league existed after seeing a television news report of the Jillaroos' 2013 World Cup win in England, believes the St George Illawarra Dragons must be one of the clubs included in the new Women's NRL Premiership.

After doing some research Apps found that Illawarra had one of the strongest and most established women's competitions, which was founded in 1991, and decided to make the 750km weekly round trip from Bega to play for Helensburgh. 

"I think it would be hard for them to be declined given their history with women's rugby league," Apps told NRL.com.

"They have had women's competitions for more than 20 years and I have seen what the Dragons do in the community and schools to try to promote the women's game through tag, touch, and tackle."

There are now more than 14,000 women and girls playing the three formats in the region, while an under-18s Illawarra Women's League competition was established last year.

The best of those players were on display in last weekend's Tarsha Gale Cup fixture between Illawarra Steelers and St George Dragons, who would become feeder teams for the St George Illawarra Dragons WNRL side.

The St George Dragons and Illawarra Steelers teams from the under 18s Tarsha Gale Cup.
The St George Dragons and Illawarra Steelers teams from the under 18s Tarsha Gale Cup.

"I wasn't allowed to play through school but now girls can play rugby league in high school and they can continue to play after school through the Lisa Fiaolo under-16s Cup and the Tarsha Gales Cup for under-18s," Apps said.

"I have been going to a few of the Steelers girls training and games, and they have just progressed so much from last year until now with the amount of skill they have learned.

"That is something that really excites me, hopefully if the Dragons are successful in their bid I will be able to play with some of those girls coming through."

The profile of women's rugby league in the area is such that Apps was voted the 2017 Illawarra Mercury Sports Star of the Year, ahead of Dragons forward Tyson Frizell, who also played in a World Cup winning team for the Kangaroos.  

Apps and Jillaroos teammate Sam Bremner, who work as ambassadors for the Dragons, have been involved in the club's bid submitted to the NRL last month.

With Brisbane Broncos, Cronulla Sharks, New Zealand Warriors, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Sydney Roosters also applying for licences, an announcement on the structure of the competition is expected this week.

Jillaroos representative Kezie Apps.
Jillaroos representative Kezie Apps. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Besides their history of development of women's rugby league, the Dragons believe their reach from southern Sydney to Bateman's Bay on the NSW South Coast make the club a strategic choice for a place in the new competition.

Bateman's Bay and Bomaderry both have teams in the Illawarra Women's League, which was won last year by Corrimal Cougars.

Cougars winger Rikeya Horne, who played in last year's Steelers under-18s team, is one of 40 players offered NRL contracts after debuting for the Jillaroos at the recent Commonwealth Championships and she is expected to line up alongside Apps and Bremner for the Dragons.  

The club last week announced Steelers Tarsha Gale Cup coach Daniel Lacey would be given charge of the WNRL side, with Jillaroos head trainer Pam Goodridge to fulfil the same role for the team.