Growth in Country Rugby League in 2017 attributed to high female participation

Country Rugby League has recorded a national increase of 3.5 percent in registered players in 2017.

And the massive growth of women in the sport is largely the cause for the boom.

With over 57,000 players of both sexes taking the field each weekend for over 500 clubs, the increase has been evenly spread with all six CRL regions experiencing growth in 2017.

The continual growth of female participation in rugby league is particularly evident in regional NSW where a 32 percent increase now represents over 9000 players and 50 percent of all nationally registered females playing in CRL tackle and tag competitions.

“Ladies League Tag has been an overwhelming success for CRL, with every group across regional NSW hosting competitions,” Operations Manager Bert Lowrie said.

“The positive impact these teams have had on their local clubs and communities can’t be underestimated and it’s exciting to see new and existing players registering for our CRL Women’s Nines tackle competitions at an equally impressive rate.

“The ability to provide both tackle and tag versions of the game is extremely important and opens up a range of exciting pathways for female players in the near future.”

The same growth of 30 percent has been reported by the NRL’s general manager of participation and game development Luke Ellis.

"The profile of the Jillaroos, the profile of the two female State of Origin teams are certainly adding to that as are the events and the work we are doing out in the regional communities," Luke Ellis said.

With the unprecedented success of the Women’s AFL this year, the push is on for a professional women’s league in the NRL too.

"It's probably three to five years away … but it’s critical to make sure we do it at the right time and that we don't rush something together that won't be sustainable in the long term," Mr Ellis said.

Participation numbers of senior and junior men’s rugby league have seen growth this year too.

“We’ve seen small areas like Group 16 register over 1000 junior players for the first time,” Mr Lowrie said.

“Proactive committees like Group 20 JRL engaging their communities through ‘come and try’ initiatives and flexible age policies.

“Areas like Group 19 have welcomed sides back into their senior competitions to record increases in both male and female participation in areas where the tyranny of distance can be a burden.”

Despite the positives to come out of the recent statistics, Lowrie acknowledged the challenges that still exist; particularly in teenage participation.

“The changing landscape will always produce challenges and the area of teenage participation is something Country Rugby League, and the game as a whole, are looking at closely,” Mr Lowrie said