The St George Illawarra Dragons have today been granted a licence by the NRL to participate in the inaugural Holden Women's Premiership in 2018.
The Dragons will be joined by the Brisbane Broncos, Sydney Roosters and New Zealand Warriors in an elite four team competition that will be played during the NRL finals series.
Having expressed an interest to compete in the inaugural Women's Premiership upon the announcement of the competition last December, the club fulfilled all necessary requirements and criteria within their detailed submission to be awarded a licence.
St George Illawarra Chairman Brian Johnston was thrilled by the club's inclusion in the inaugural NRL Women's Premiership.
"The Dragons' inclusion in the NRL Women's Premiership is fantastic news for our club and all those people who have contributed to the development of the women's game over many years now. I would like to record our thanks to those people," Johnston said.
"With the currently undefeated Illawarra and the first-year St George team participating in the Tarsha Gale Cup Under-18s competition, and an established open age competition in place in the Illawarra, the Dragons' inclusion in this elite Women's Premiership will complete our female rugby league pathway.
"The Dragons enjoy a rich history with developing women's rugby league and we are proud of our achievements, with more than 14,000 girls and women currently competing in our region across tackle, tag and touch football.
"Considering the frameworks already in place everyone involved at the Dragons is excited about this strategic development, and we are looking forward to establishing our maiden 22-woman squad.
"Having our coaching staff already identified and the required structures in place to support the elite women's program under the club's nuclear model, the Dragons are already on the front foot in building a successful Women's Premiership team that all of our members, partners and fans will be proud of."
NRL Chief Executive Todd Greenberg said a decision was made to run the competition with four teams, rather than six, to ensure the first year of competition was of the highest quality, whilst balancing player workload.
He said the NRL consulted with Jillaroos and other senior players, who wanted a strong competition with the very best players in action each week.
"They also wanted the teams involved to cover a wide geographical area," Greenberg said.
“We think we’ve got the balance right for our first year and I would expect more NRL clubs to join the competition in the years ahead."
"It's a big and a really exciting year ahead for our female rugby league players, as well as fans of our women's game."