Warriors women back in expanded NRLW

After a five-year absence the Warriors will return to the NRLW in 2025.

The Australian Rugby League Commission announced on Thursday the competition would be expanded to 12 teams next season with the Warriors one of two clubs brought in.

With the uncertainty around trans-Tasman travel in 2020 a women’s team from Auckland did not relocate to Australia to take part in the NRLW, instead a squad of Australian-based players took the field in their place.

The Warriors withdrew from the NRLW in 2021 citing the financial pressure of Covid and have not been back since.

“It’s obviously extremely exciting, not just for our club but for women’s rugby league in New Zealand,” Warriors chief executive Cameron George said of the club’s return to the competition.

“Our fans have eagerly awaited the return of their side to the NRLW stage. We saw that excitement pre-Covid and now, after plenty of work, we’re finally ready to go again.”

Though major appointments like a head coach and marquee players were yet to be made, George said the green light from the NRL meant the club could now make moves.

While the draw is yet to be confirmed, the likely structure will include an eight-week preseason, an 11-round regular season and a two-week finals series.

The Warriors appointed leading New Zealand rugby league administrator Nadene Conlon as the club’s NRLW academy manager last year to create a development and pathways programme ahead of a planned return to the competition.

“There has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make this possible,” the former Kiwi Ferns captain said.

“The number of women playing the game in New Zealand has been growing so much and now the dream of representing the Warriors is becoming a reality.”

The Warriors were one of four foundation clubs alongside Brisbane, St George Illawarra and the Sydney Roosters when the NRLW was launched in 2018; they played in the competition for the first three seasons.

Krystal Rota, a member of the Warriors’ inaugural NRLW team, shared her excitement about the club’s return.

“I remember that feeling of pulling on the Warriors jumper for the first time. It was so special, it’s every kid’s dream if you grow up playing rugby league in Aotearoa,” she said.

Reflecting on the impact of Covid on women’s rugby league in New Zealand, Rota felt there was now an opportunity to lure some lost talent back home.

“Covid forced so much of our local talent offshore, including myself. I went to Newcastle because there was no pathway here so I have no doubt this announcement will lure some of those ladies back.”

Also added to the competition were the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs. The 12 teams in 2025 will be: Brisbane Broncos, Canberra Raiders, Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs, Cronulla Sutherland Sharks, Gold Coast Titans, Newcastle Knights, North Queensland Cowboys, New Zealand Warriors, Parramatta Eels, St George Illawarra Dragons, Sydney Roosters and Wests Tigers.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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