Wednesday 17 August 2022

My team isn't in the NRLW - so who do I go for?

NRLW - Who do you barrack for without 'your team'?
Published August 17, 2022 
The NRLW opens up its 5th Premiership campaign on Saturday, as the competition deploys a second season within the 2022 calendar year, only this time it is back to kicking off in the more familiar time-slot of August.
The Sydney Roosters won their first Premiership in the '2021' season which was played between February and April earlier this year (to catch up on having no comp last year), and it was also the first time the competition had six teams in play.
The Brisbane Broncos won the first three titles in 2018-19-20, but it was only a four team comp for each campaign.
Unfortunately, COVID realities claimed the NZ Warriors team at the end of 2020, but the other originals - the Roosters, Broncos and St George Illawarra Dragons were carried forward into the 4th season along with three new clubs - the Gold Coast Titans, Newcastle Knights and Parramatta Eels.
There is more serious expansion on the way in 2023 with the Canberra Raiders, Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, North Queensland Cowboys and Wests Tigers joining the NRLW - giving more and more fans of Rugby League a chance to barrack for their 'own' team.
Representatives from the six NRLW clubs launch the 2022 Season at the new SFS.
And the 'lack of my team' is the huge (yet barely raised in the media) challenge the NRLW has faced in connecting with more Rugby League fans since the inaugural 2018 season.
Now lets be clear - starting with just four teams was a necessity in building up the NRLW comp from scratch - and this is exactly how the process of professionalising Women's Rugby League needed to be begun.
Slowly, and surely.
And then COVID hit with a vengeance in 2021 and claimed a whole season.
The loss of the NZ Warriors team can't be understated, as their omission has made it more difficult for the NRLW to naturally reach valuable playing and supporting demographics across Australia, New Zealand and the wider Pacific. That is not to say work isn't being done at the grassroots in these areas, but never underestimate the inherent value of having a figurehead team to support - which is what the NZ Warriors side offered - and the game lost (hopefully temporarily).
And the NZ team's absence and subsequent supporter impact, speaks to the wider challenge the NRLW faces as it expands in 2023 for the second time in two years.
How do you reach the rusted-on Rugby League tragic who sees their whole week impacted by how their NRL team performs for around 30 weeks every year and get them take notice of your competition... when said team is not in your competition?
It's not easy.
In some cases, it might be near-on impossible... 
But that's the immediate challenge the NRLW has to take on with their four extra teams joining the competition in 2023 - and the NRLW has to start marketing the arrival of those new clubs now. Not in twelve months time.
For the duration of the upcoming five regular season rounds and two Finals Weeks of the 2022 NRLW Premiership - NRLW marketing has to be carrying the message that expansion is coming and now is the best time to get a look at what is to come at YOUR club next year.
Now ten NRLW teams may not be the same number of the current NRL clubs - which also expands from sixteen to seventeen in 2023 - but it is stunning improvement (in five years) over the initial four clubs that took the field in 2018.
And with ten of sixteen clubs having both NRLW and NRL representation as of next year, the NRLW marketing department has to be going hard at drumming up support for each of the new NRLW clubs as we get into the pointy end of the 2022 NRL campaign and launch the 5th NRLW season.
Because when you come back to the initial question posed in this blog: 
'Who do you barrack for in the NRLW without 'your team'? 
Excitingly, that question is evolving into when can I barrack for my NRL team in the NRLW?
Thanks to investment from the ARLC in the NRLW framework, and the increasing numbers of girls now wanting to play Rugby League (and the grassroots administrators who are making this possible) we may only be a handful of years from a twelve or fourteen team NRLW competition. 
ARLC Chairman Peter V'landys spoke about why the NRLW added four new teams for 2023 (June 2022).
“We have a blueprint for investing in the women’s game at all levels. We have seen from with the quality of the 2021 NRLW Premiership and the tremendous growth in female participation that we have capacity for sustainable growth,” Mr V’landys said.
“The Commission have again demonstrated that the women’s game is a strategic priority. The quality of the Club submissions was excellent. The Commission had always left the door open to expand to a 10-team competition based on the quality of the applicants, and we have seen that come through both in the success of the 2021 Premiership and the quality and applications made by Clubs.”
The 2022 NRLW Premiership Teams:
Brisbane, Gold Coast, Newcastle, Parramatta, St George-Illawarra and Sydney. 
Now the product on the field itself is what will sell tickets to games and attract stronger TV ratings but you simply should not overlook the impact that having a team to support - that is actually your team - will have on the aforementioned key indicators.
But the underlying point of this blog is to highlight that just having a competition is not enough to guarantee all Rugby League fans will fall in love with the NRLW - but if NRL fans have their own team involved in this competition, it will make a huge difference to their attention span and appreciation of what Women's Rugby League has to offer - which is plenty.
Oh, and the current answer to the main question above is - whichever team you like watching the most.
Because until your team comes into the NRLW - you've got a free throw at the dart board to pick any current NRLW team you like watching play.
So throw those darts and see what you like.
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