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Cowboys, Sharks, Raiders, Tigers get nod to join fast-tracked NRLW expansion to 10 teams

The ARL Commission will fast-track the expansion of the NRLW with four new teams entering the competition in 2023.

Canberra, Cronulla, North Queensland and the Wests Tigers will be be admitted to the NRLW next year following the completion of the second 2022 season. The 2021 premiership was delayed until the start of this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ARL had announced earlier this year that two teams would come into the competition next year with two more in 2024 but had decided to expand to 10 clubs ahead of schedule.

Under the 10-team competition next year, there will be six teams in NSW – also including existing clubs St George Illawarra, Parramatta, the Roosters and Newcastle, as well as the Raiders in the ACT, plus three in Queensland with the Cowboys joining Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

The Roosters won the NRLW grand final earlier this year, ending Brisbane’s run of three straight titles, when they upset the Dragons.

Sarah Togatuki is tackled during the NRLW Grand Final. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

The tournament, which started in 2018 with four clubs, added three further teams earlier this year when the Warriors decided not to return to the competition with the Eels, Knights and Titans taking part for the first time.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo, in a statement announcing the decision, said described it as a watershed moment for the sport.

“Today is another exciting milestone in the growth of [the] women’s premiership,” he said.

“The Sharks and the Tigers have strong teams in the Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership, and the Raiders and the Cowboys already have strong participation bases.

“We will continue to work with all NRL clubs on the plans for further expansion beyond 2023 and the right time for each club to potentially enter the NRW Premiership.”

ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys said the growth of the women’s game was a priority for the sport, from grassroots to elite.

“We have a blueprint for investing in the women’s game at all levels. We have seen from with the quality of the 2021 NRLW Premiership and the tremendous growth in female participation that we have capacity for sustainable growth,” he said.

“The Commission have again demonstrated that the women’s game is a strategic priority. The quality of the club submissions was excellent. The Commission had always left the door open to expand to a 10-team competition based on the quality of the applicants, and we have seen that come through both in the success of the 2021 premiership and the quality and applications made by clubs.”

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