NRLW season set for overhaul

Chasing success: Kezie Apps and Sam Bremner. Picture: NRL Images.

Chasing success: Kezie Apps and Sam Bremner. Picture: NRL Images.

The region's top female footballers are likely to have even more opportunities to represent St George Illawarra in 2020, with the NRLW set to be expanded this season.

The four-team competition was run over four weeks throughout it's first two editions, the sides playing each other once before a decider on NRL grand final day.

While the league has been praised for establishing the competition, players and coaches have since called for it's expansion.

The NRL has responded to those calls, with the length of the competition likely to be doubled in 2020.

It is understood each team will play each other twice in a six-round season, before the grand final on the same day as the men's decider.

While the move is still to be formally signed off on, players and coaches have already adjusted their plans for this year. An official announcement is expected within the next month.

St George Illawarra women's coach Daniel Lacey said the time was right to extend the season.

"It hasn't been signed off on yet, they're still working through a few things, but we are planning to play each other twice," Lacey said. "They want to have three games in the regular season, we have put in an expression of interest to play a double-header before the men at Kogarah in round 23, which would be our first game.

"Six rounds is where it needs to be now, they've worked out they've got the market for it, people want to see it and we've left them hanging for more."

The lengthening of the NRLW will have a flow on effect for all other women's rugby league competitions, with the NSW Rugby League still to announce their draw for this year.

The decision has also impacted the Illawarra women's league, with players likely to miss the final rounds of the season due to Dragons commitments.

Jillaroos star Keeley Davis has made the tough decision to play for Mounties in the Sydney competition as a result of the move.

While she is disappointed to leave the Cougars, Davis said the lengthening of the NRLW season is ultimately good for the sport.

"With the NRLW likely getting longer I'll have to miss the whole second half of the season if I was playing down here and I don't think I could do that very well, missing finals," Davis said.

"It's exciting that they're extending the season. With such a short season, it's tough if you lose games you shouldn't have, just because you're a new group. Having an extra round will help make it a fairer competition and you can really work as a team and gel."

The doubling in length of the NRLW regular season marks the first step in the league's expansion of the women's competition.

The NRL sent out expressions of interest to the 12 remaining NRL clubs last September, with an announcement regarding possible expansion to come this year.

"Next year is a good time to expand," Lacey said. "I'm reluctant to go any more than two teams and I'd like to see another team in another state.

"Some clubs are doing a lot of good things in the women's space and are bringing junior girls through, I'd like them to hand a license to a club that is in there for the long haul.

"I'd like to see another team in Queensland to grow the game, we have to grow the game geographically."

This story NRLW season set for overhaul first appeared on Bega District News.