As the Warriors men’s team hit the field running again, Warriors women’s captain Georgia Hale remains frustrated, waiting for the NRL women’s competition to get the green light.

On this week’s Extra Time podcast, Hale says its difficult trying to stay focused on training when there’s no guarantee the NRLW premiership season will go ahead. And she worries that young up-and-coming players are losing motivation without a goal in sight.

The NRL have been in discussion with the four teams, who’ve been in the women’s competition since 2018, about when – if at all – the 2020 premiership will be played. Much of the decision has hinged on the NRL securing a new broadcast deal with Nine and Foxtel in Australia – a deal finally struck on Thursday.

But there’s still been no word on the future of the women’s premiership season.  

“It’s been a really frustrating time, to be honest,” Hale says. “I’m really happy the men’s game is up and running, but I still feel like our female game is on the back foot. We’re always looked at later down the tier.

“As a player, trying to stay in that elite space and still be training, trying to compete and be the best, it’s hard to do when there is nothing in sight.”

The NRL has confirmed a State of Origin women’s game in Australia for November, with acting chief executive Andrew Abdo saying the women’s competition was “still a priority”. There is a chance the NRLW could be carried over to early 2021 – the same year as the Women’s Rugby League World Cup in England in November. 

Hale, whose day job is the Warriors community relations co-ordinator, is seeing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the next generation of female players. 

“Unfortunately I’ve kind of already seen it affect some of our younger girls, just within our Kiwi Ferns squad. For our younger players its quite easy to lose sight with not much to look forward to,” she says. “Yes we have a World Cup… but there’s nothing in between that’s going to gap fill for the time we’ve lost.”

If the NRLW doesn’t materialise, Hale hopes New Zealand Rugby League can create some competition between zones or regions to keep women playing. 

“Something to kind of tick us over, even if it’s not our ideal dream for playing NRL this year, but something that supports our dream,” she says. 

“I hope for our game there’s something to look forward to soon. We’ve done a lot in the last few years to get our game to where it is… to be on an even playing field as the men.”

* Extra Time is a podcast brought to you by RNZ, Stuff and LockerRoom.

Suzanne McFadden, the 2021 Voyager Media Awards Sports Journalist of the Year, founded LockerRoom, dedicated to women's sport.

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