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Expanded number of games on horizon for NRLW in 2021

The NRLW could feature extra games in 2021 after the ARL Commission directed the NRL to expand the women's elite competition.

Announcing the 2021 men's draw, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said it was unlikely the coming year would feature an expansion in the number of teams, although that is on the radar, but there is an appetite to increase the number of NRLW and Women's State of Origin games. 

"The women's premiership is very important to the growth of our game," Abdo said.

"The Commission have made it clear that we need to invest in female elite pathways on and off the field from grassroots all the way through to the Jillaroos. The NRLW is an integral part of that puzzle.

"The women's premiership will be played at the back end of the men's regular season but it will look different in 2021. We are thinking of ways in which we can expand and amplify and grow this competition.

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"The Commission has directed us to think about how we can invest in the female elite pathways.

"The NRLW is just one aspect of that but of course what we're seeing is high quality football and the fans want to see more of it. We're thinking about how we expand the rounds then ultimately the number of clubs and teams is a priority for us.

"The competition this year was terrific, we had a few athletes join us from other codes and that's a good thing for our sport."

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At this stage there is a single Origin clash scheduled for 2021 which lands on Friday, June 25 in the NRL's representative round break, two days before the men's second Origin on Sunday, June 27.

It is not yet known if that stand alone women's Origin game will be played in NSW or Queensland.

"That's a conversation we're having with state governments and the two state leagues, we're looking forward to making an announcement over the coming weeks," Abdo added.

"With the State of Origin series, it's a logical next step to have a game in Queensland and a game in NSW."

As far as new teams entering the NRLW competition, Abdo said it was more likely they would expand the number of games.

"It would be unrealistic to expect clubs to prepare for the 2021 season and have an expansion in the number of teams, but of course the Commission have asked us to look at everything and we'll do the homework," he said.

"We'll look at business cases, we'll look at the sustainability, the talent and we'll make sure we keep investing in the quality of the product and our athletes who at this stage are semi-professional so we'll at all of that and then be able to make a decision."