The Sharks have been granted a license to participate in the NRLW competition beginning in 2023.
In a groundbreaking development for the Women’s game at the Sharks and for female rugby league players and athletes in the local region, the Sharks were today granted one of four new licenses to compete in the NRLW competition from 2023.
Pioneers in the women’s rugby league space, with the Sharks having contracted the first professional female players back in 2016, the Sharks are set to be a part of a 10-team NRLW competition in 2023, joining the Raiders, Cowboys and Tigers who have also been added to the existing six teams.
The Sharks this year provided 11 players to existing NRLW clubs from their Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership team, six were named in the NSW Women’s Origin squad, the majority having come through the junior pathways, with the Shire having a rich talent pool of female sporting talent, athletes now given an opportunity to wear the colours of their local team and compete on the biggest stage.
A lot of hard work has gone in, going back to 2016 when the Sharks had a vision for professional women’s rugby league and to have it now come to fruition, where talented young players can stay and play for their local club, is really positive for everybody involved
Dino Mezzatesta Sharks Group CEO
Sharks CEO Dino Mezzatesta, who attended today’s announcement, was understandably thrilled to have the Sharks accepted into the NRLW competition
“Ever since the NRLW was proposed we’ve had a desire to be a part of the competition and for it to now be a reality is every exciting,” Mezzatesta said.
“A lot of hard work has gone in, going back to 2016 when the Sharks had a vision for professional women’s rugby league and to have it now come to fruition, where talented young players can stay and play for their local club, is really positive for everybody involved.
“We will now continue that hard work to build a strong and competitive squad, while putting the right people and resources around the team to help make us successful from our first season,” he added.
When entering the Sharks submissions, over 20 of the Clubs women's players, ranging from the HNWP team to young girls from the Cronulla junior league, were accompanied by club officials, CEO Mezzatesta and Chairman Steve Mace, the group boarding a specially branded Sharks bus before handing over the formal application to NRL CEO Andrew Abdo.
Much more than a publicity stunt, the manner of delivering the Sharks documentation was about showing how serious the Club was about being included in the elite women’s rugby league competition.
“From the moment we began investing resources into our women’s program some six or seven years ago, we have wanted to offer opportunity for our players to compete at the highest level. Following our successful bid and acceptance now that will happen,” Mezzatesta said.
The 2022 NRLW season, set to get underway later this year, will remain at six teams, before expanding to 10 in 2023, ahead of possible further expansion in 2024.
A key element of the Sharks bid application centred around the rich talent pool in the Sutherland Shire, with the Sharks fielding a Tarsha Gale team since the inception of the competition in 2017, while HNWP Captain Corban Baxter along with Sharks teammates Hollie Wheeler and Kiana Takairangi, will impart their knowledge on the next crop of emerging players as coaches of the Clubs under-17 Lisa Fiaola Cup squad.
Add to that the fact the Sutherland Shire has impressive numbers of women’s and girls playing non-contact forms of the game and the Sharks envisage a bright future not just for the 2023 season but well into the future.