Boost for women in league with new competition

STRONG START: Group Nine plan to introduce a women's tackle competition after Riverina claimed the first Country Championships title in 2019.
STRONG START: Group Nine plan to introduce a women's tackle competition after Riverina claimed the first Country Championships title in 2019.

Group Nine are looking to introduce a women's tackle competition next season.

Riverina enjoyed breakout success by winning the first Country Championships campaign, but did so without a dedicated competition.

However the board are looking to boost women's rugby league by introducing a five-week competition in February and March.

Currently expressions of interest are being called for in both opens and under 17s.

Group Nine board member Andrew Hinchcliffe, who coached the Group Nine women side last season, believes there is already good interest in the concept.

The level of interest will determine how many teams will be in each competition however Hinchcliffe is hoping for at least four to six open sides and hopefully four in the juniors.

"We're just testing the waters," Hinchcliffe said.

"There is a lot of talent within the region and more broadly there are a couple who have done really well.

"We're hoping it will be a good competition."

Hinchcliffe hasn't ruled out assigning players to teams in a bid to ensure a fairly even competition with the hope of having teams from different clusters across the group.

The first three rounds have been booked in for Wagga as the central location with the plan to play under lights on Saturday evenings over five weeks starting on February 22 before a final on March 21.

The Group Nine leaguetag season starts on April 19.

It comes as Group Nine welcomes two new female faces onto the board.

Only four of the positions were filled at the annual general meeting however Gabe Knight and Lisa Crick have accepted roles for 2020.

It comes after Kathy Tuckwell stood down this season after becoming the first women elected to the board three years ago.

Knight, who has spent the last four seasons as Kangaroos secretary, believes it is great to have female perspective in the running of the competition.

"I've been talking to Peter (McDermott) and Hinchy (Andrew Hinchcliffe) mostly from the board and they've been welcoming and made it well known they want women on the board," Knight said.

"It is really nice as in the rugby league community it is not always the way."

Gabe Knight playing for Kangaroos this season.

Gabe Knight playing for Kangaroos this season.

Knight was captain was the Kangaroos outfit who made it through to the leaguetag preliminary final last season.

She believes the new tackle competition is a big step forward for women in league.

"I haven't had anything to do with it yet, but props to the board for committing to doing it," Knight said.

"It is all we've ever needed was for the group to get behind it and push it.

"Hopefully we can now get the girls to get behind it, register and make it happen."

Knight believes the proposed time frame will work.

Especially after having a lukewarm reception to tackle competitions after the season previously.

"Previously we've tried to do it in November/December and it is just too hard," she said.

"We play all season, give up every weekend all season and then you finally get to do social things and go away so it is really hard to commit to something then.

"With Feburary/March you are already back training, back into the swing of a routine so I think it is a much better timing."

Knight is confident there are plenty of women looking for the option to play in a tackle competition.

She also feels it will help bring more players back to league.

"I can't get over how much talent around here but we don't get a forum to show it or practice it," Knight said.

"A lot of the girls who do want to play tackle are over in the union side of things so it would be nice to slowly pull them back."

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