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Triple-headers an option as NRLW draw meshes with NRL finals

NRLW regular-season matches are set to be played as "triple-headers" with NRL finals fixtures for the first time.

In confirming the women's competition was in readiness to kick off in October alongside the mens's finals series, NRL general manager of elite competitions Jason King on Monday said there could be double- and triple-headers at some venues to ensure all games were played in a safe environment.

King also confirmed Melbourne would play any NRL finals where they have home-ground advantage at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium, not on the Sunshine Coast, where they have relocated due to the COVID-19 situation in Victoria.

In the highly unlikely event of the Warriors snaring a sixth-placed finish, they would host matches at Central Coast Stadium.

King said playing the NRLW matches over the three weeks of the NRL finals leading up to the grand final on October 25 was going to be logistically difficult with border restrictions between NSW and Queensland on top of the trans-Tasman measures but officials are confident of achieving the feat.

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"One thing we're mindful of in scheduling is making sure the facilities are capable of hosting women's teams as well as men's teams," King said.

"So the structure will occur with double-headers and possibly even triple-headers this year. The specific slots are currently in discussions with various partners but we can confirm the NRLW will go ahead.

"But because of the nature of the risks involved there can't be any intermingling of the two [men's women's] bubbles. So that creates a few logistical headaches for us, particularly on match day, but nothing that's beyond us.

"Given the situation in Victoria, the Storm are earmarked to play at Suncorp Stadium," King said, saying his team met with the medical experts twice a week to understand the latest with the COVID trends and outcomes in that state.

"It's very hard to predict … but our understanding at the moment is that Victoria is going to take considerable time to recover and that recovery won't necessarily occur prior to the finals starting."

The Sharks can play a home final at Kogarah, while the Panthers and Knights can also play their home finals in weeks two and three at Penrith Stadium and McDonald Jones Stadium, as well as week one.

Another debate happening is what the NRLW protocols will be as - unlike the men's players - the women are part-time, semi-professional athletes with jobs, study, family responsibilities.

"So we're working closely with our expert advisers to tailor something that's suitable to them, while at the same time safeguarding their health, their families' health and the community's as well," King said.

He added the NRLW training and contract period was "imminent" and would be "starting in the next couple of days".

The four NRLW clubs – Roosters, Broncos, Warriors and Dragons – have 22 players in their squads and can contract players from state league competitions, without it impacting on those on those club premierships.

"The players have made commitments throughout the year to play in those teams and they're currently about to start their finals series so we have to be very respectful of that," King said.

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The Warriors NRLW side will reclocate from Auckland to NSW, like their men's squad. All New Zealand-based players, whether contracted to the Warriors or one of the other three clubs, will have to undergo a two-week quarantine.

The NRL is in discussion with government officials to have that quarantine period completed at sites other than city hotels, where players are not able to use gymnasiums or training fields.

The Warriors men's team did their quarantine in Tamworth, with their accommodation adjacent to the Scully Park ground.

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The NRL is looking at several sites in the Sydney area including St Marys Leagues Club and stadium, where the Eels and Raiders played a trial in 2019, along with a number of NSW Sport and Recreation venues like the one at Brooklyn to house NRLW players and the Warriors team.

It is hoped discussions with the Queensland Government will keep the Broncos NRLW side based in Brisbane, allowing them to fly-in, fly-out to games like the NRL side currently does.

There is no desire to create a women's hub by having all 88 players, staff, and possibly some family members in the one location.

"It's not something we saw as appropriate because it would be too interrupting to their normal life. If you went into a hub it would have consequences for work or study, or for mothers," King said.

"Our experience with the men has shown us the more flexibility is probably to the better."

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The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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