LAYING in the inaugural NRL women’s competition will be Holli Wheeler’s rugby league goal for 2018.
The NRL announced this week that a six team women’s competition will be conducted in the lead-up and alongside the NRL finals series in 2018. There would also be a stand alone State of Origin match mid-season.
This year Wheeler, from Old Bar, played for North Newcastle in the NSW Women’s Premiership, with the side beaten by Redfern All Blacks in the grand final. She was also a member of the Country squad for the inaugural City/Country match at North Sydney Oval.
“I’m committed to playing with Norths again next year – our coach, Mick Young, has already contacted me about when we’ll be starting pre-season training,’’ Wheeler explained.
She’s looking forward to the new development in the women’s game, adding that it is a natural progression from the successful World Cup.
“I’m 100 per cent excited,’’ she said.
Wheeler understands the NSW Premiership teams will act as feeder clubs to the NRL franchises.
Wheeler, Forster-Tuncurry’s Kylie Hilder – who is the Country Rugby League’s women’s participation officer and Simone Smith from Port Macquarie all played for North Newcastle Smith was a member of the Australian team that played in the mid-year test against New Zealand while Hilder was named Country’s best player in the clash against City. However, Smith is unlikely to play next season as she will be undergoing a knee reconstruction.
Hilder announced her retirement after this year’s grand final, but has changed her mind because of this latest development.
“I’m putting my hand up to play again,’’ she said.
HIlder’s hoping to get a start with an NRL clubs, explaining that the NSW premiership will end earlier next season to fit in with the new concept. It was reported on Thursday that 14 NRL clubs have expressed interest in seeking franchises, including the Newcastle Knights. This was confirmed by CEO Phil Gardner on the club’s website.
Hilder expects that Wheeler will be approached by one of the NRL clubs. She further explained that there will an expanded representative program run in early June for three days featuring Queensland and NSW City and Country sides along with teams from the Affiliated States. This will lead into the State of Origin.
However, Hilder said there won’t be a longer women’s NRL competition involving additional clubs until there are more players contracted professionally. The NRL announced this week that 40 players would be offered Jillaroos contracts next year which would include match payments.