The NRL recently announced the St George Illawarra Dragons, Brisbane Broncos, Sydney Roosters and New Zealand Warriors will compete in the inaugural NRL Holden Women's Premiership.

This competition will be played in unison as double headers through the NRL finals series in 2018.

For more information: https://www.nrl.com/news/2018/03/27/nrl-holden-womens-premiership-teams-announced/

Our inclusion in the inaugural NRL Women's Premiership is fantastic news for the Dragons and all those people who have contributed to the development of the women's game over many years.

The Dragons' inclusion in this elite Women's Premiership will complete the female rugby league pathway for the more than 14,000 girls and women currently competing in our region across tackle, tag and touch football.

We have recently appointed and announced qualified and experienced coaching staff to support and develop our elite women's program and we are committed to building a successful Women's Premiership team that all of our members, partners and fans will be proud of.

There has however been some controversy within the media in relation to the decision to award a licence to only four clubs for the inaugural season. We believe this backlash is based on what we believe a lack of detail provided to support the NRL’s decision.

By way of information for members see below a summary of the key elements of the Dragons' detailed submission, which the NRL advised met all of the required criteria to be awarded a licence.

The Dragons are now in the process of assembling our elite 22-woman squad to compete in the inaugural NRL Women's Premiership, and we are excited by the opportunities that lay ahead for the women's game.

St George Illawarra's NRL Holden Women's Premiership detailed submission included:

Brand reach and national fan base

The Dragons represent a vast geographical region that includes southern metropolitan Sydney, the Illawarra region and South Coast stretching to Bateman's Bay.

History of propagating women's rugby league

The Dragons have a demonstrated history when it comes to the development and propagation of women's rugby league within our region. Women's rugby league has been played across our region since 1991.

Since 2000, the Dragons have implemented a range of participation initiatives to grow the women's game significantly. Some of these milestones included:

  • Introduction of Dragon Tag to primary and secondary schools in the Illawarra and South Coast in 2000.
  • Since 2004 Dragon Tag has remained the most participated primary school sports program in the Dragons' region
  • In 2009, girls 'tackle gala days' were introduced in secondary schools across the Dragons' region.
  • The inaugural Illawarra women's open competition was established in 2011
  • The inaugural Illawarra women's representative team was selected in 2012. They went on to win the state championship
  • Girls league tag was introduced in 2015 throughout the Illawarra and South Coast junior leagues
  • The introduction of the 'November Nines' – a four-week introductory competition – occurred in 2016

Established pathways for women's rugby league

A proven and established pathway structure is in place for girls and women across our region, from grassroots participation activities in schools through to junior and senior competitions and elite representative structures.

In 2017 across the tackle, tag and touch formats of rugby league, the Dragons had more than 14,000 women and girls participating across the region.

Current Jillaroos Players include: Kezie Apps (contracted Dragons ambassador), Sam Bremner (contracted Dragons Ambassador) and Rikeya Horne.

Currently nine players from the Dragons' region have played for the Jillaroos.

Integration with existing men's programs

The women's program will have access to the highest levels of professionalism through their own specific, experienced coaching and performance staff and direct support from key NRL staff including elite coaches, athlete performance specialists and medical professionals.

The Dragons women's program will have access to elite training facilities at the University of Wollongong, and a group of qualified and experienced individuals to coach and develop our elite female players.

Female athletes will be nurtured and provided opportunities to progress through our pathway to the elite NRL competition, with specialist coaching provided through our high performance unit.

Development club

The Dragons have a proven track record of developing players from across our region to compete at the highest levels of the game. This will continue be a key focus of our women's program through our high performance and recruitment initiatives.