In welcome news, the NRLW’s latest key targets will include full-time contracts and equal pay for its top female players.
Tiffany Slater is NRL’s manager of women’s elite programs, and back in June, was named one of six recipients of the Australian Financial Review’s BOSS Young Executives winners for 2020.
She believes the salary of the women of rugby league ought to be a financial priority. “It’s about balancing the passion and the desire but ensuring we are taking sustainable steps so that in 10, 20 years time, this still exists,” Slater told SMH. “And that it not only exists, but it is flying.”
This week, as the NRL community is celebrating the Harvey Norman Women In League Round (Round 19), Slater outlined plans for the women’s game and said full-time NRLW contracts have “always” been a primary goal.
“We need to make the right decision now to set it up for the future,” she said. “The movement towards full-time, towards equal pay, is the reflection of a wider societal movement.”
Kezie Apps, the NSW captain and Jillaroos star, told SMH she believes equal pay for female players is no longer an impossible reality. “It is something I believe will happen,” Apps said. “The more support we get, the more opportunities we get to train, to be coached by the best coaches … we do a really good job with what we are given.”
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“If we were full time, imagine the game we could play and the product we could produce.”
In July, the NRL announced plans to fund 2020 NRLW season for the first time. Slater believes these measures are a positive step for the NRLW post-COVID. “All the effort that has been put into women’s rugby league … ensuring that continued to grow in 2020 was vital as soon as we started working through what the impact of coronavirus would mean.”
Last week, the NRL announced it had undergone a number of cost-cutting measures to save around $80 million a year, with teams including the Warriors and the Roosters pulling out of this year’s competition due to the financial impact of COVID-19.
Kezie Apps told SMH the funding from the NRL was “a welcome development and a credit to the early pioneers of women’s rugby league.”
“With everything that they [the NRL] have gone through COVID-19, people lost their jobs, people had to be put on hold … for them to agree and give us that confidence that they were going to do everything that they could possible so we can get our competition up and running, that was really nice to hear that,” she said.
2020 was meant to be a year of great expansion for the NRLW. This was before the pandemic struck. Currently, there are four clubs playing in a round-robin competition, with an additional standalone Origin game.
“It has been hard because we were hoping for an expansion this year because the growth has been amazing for women in sport,” Apps said. “We haven’t taken a step back, but this could have been the year that we took a couple of steps forward.”
2020 marks the 14th occasion of the Harvey Norman Women In League Round. Harvey Norman Chief Executive, Katie Page, said in an official statement she is proud of how far women in the sport have progressed.
“Did I think Women in League and Women in Sport would be where it is today when we started 14 years ago? No, but I could see the potential,” she said. “ We have our female rugby league fans and volunteers to thank for getting us started. They were there supporting the game at every level from the beginning. Harvey Norman and the NRL invested the time and resources to build from there. Now it has its own sustainable momentum and we get to watch a new generation of girls and women rise up through the ranks in their preferred area of the game.”
Photo Credit: NRL Photos