Warriors CEO Cameron George hopes his club will be welcomed back into the NRLW in 2025, declaring it’s a competition they never wanted to leave until the COVID-19 pandemic forced their hand.
The Warriors announced on Thursday their intention to return to the NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership in 2025, along with plans to enter Jersey Flegg Cup (under-21) and Harold Matthews Cup (under-17) male sides next year.
Under the $6 million financial plans for the NRLW, agreed in principle between the NRL and RLPA, the number of NRLW teams is expected to grow from 10 to a maximum of 12 during the CBA cycle (2023-2027).
The Warriors were an inaugural member of the NRLW in 2018 and played in the first three seasons before withdrawing due to the logistical challenges presented by travel restrictions triggered by the pandemic.
Work is already underway at the club to set up female-specific academies, and along with the other pathway plans, seeking NRLW re-entry is fully backed by club owner Mark Robinson.
“It’s very important to us that we are part of the NRLW,” George told NRL.com.
It’s a strong area of the game here and you see the Kiwi Ferns participating well at the highest level.Cameron George Warriors CEO
“It makes a huge amount of sense to capture the market in New Zealand in the women’s game."
The Bulldogs, Panthers, Rabbitohs, Sea Eagles, Storm, Dolphins and Warriors are the seven NRL clubs without an NRLW team currently.
Warriors general manager of recruitment, development and pathways, Andrew McFadden, said having a clear female pathway structure in place will be key to the club's hopes of being successful in their re-entry bid.
“That will be very important and that’s why we have started it now," McFadden told NRL.com.
“We have got to get on the front foot. We have got around 18 months to prepare for that, so we want to start building opportunities for young girls and women.
“Our aim would be to have as many homegrown players as possible.
“There’s a lot of good Kiwi women who have gone overseas because there is no opportunity here at the moment, so hopefully we can bring some of them back too.
“We want to be a development club. We want to give opportunities to our homegrown talent and locals, and that will extend to the women’s space as well.”
The club has been working alongside the New Zealand Rugby League and New Zealand’s biggest regional body, the Auckland Rugby League, in the female space, while last December they fielded a Warriors team in the female section of the rugby union World Sevens tournament in Auckland, with an eye to building towards an eventual NRLW return.