“We have a commitment to play in the upcoming season, but we are waiting on the NRL’s stance on the Holden Women’s Premiership in 2020 and whether it will proceed,” Johnston said. “We’re unsure how the other clubs are positioned at this stage as far as the NRLW goes; we are focused on our women’s team endeavours and our commitment to the competition. There are several months to work through all of our women’s rugby league matters as the competition is not scheduled to commence until September.
“The unprecedented worldwide pandemic we’re all currently facing isn’t discriminating. Sporting competitions, regardless of gender, have or are being cancelled and suspended due to COVID-19 globally. If a 2020 competition weren’t to proceed, it is a reflection of the current climate and not on the women’s game.”
The Broncos say they are still eager to take part in a competition, too.
“We have always supported women’s rugby league and we will continue to support women’s rugby league but the decision is in the hands of the NRL,” a Broncos spokesperson said.
Club sources have said the only way the NRLW premiers will be able to take to the field this season – provided the coronavirus pandemic has been contained by then – is if the NRL help fund the competition in the form of grants to clubs.
The four clubs currently spend between $300,000 and $500,000 each on their NRLW teams every year, but the teams provide the clubs with minimal revenue.
None of those expenses are subsidised by the NRL, which has been a source of frustration behind closed doors. The AFL subsidise their AFLW clubs, making the financial costs easier to manage.
And while the Broncos and Roosters, in particular, have previously had more than enough wiggle room in their bottom line to fund their NRLW teams, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc with all clubs’ balance sheets.
“The NRLW remains an important consideration in ongoing discussions around the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic,” an NRL spokesperson said. “The NRL will advise if there are any updates or changes to this when appropriate.”
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.