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Growing Expectations: Comparing NRLW Athlete Experiences

The Professionalisation of Women’s Sport

ISBN: 978-1-80043-197-3, eISBN: 978-1-80043-196-6

Publication date: 20 September 2021


The first Australia and New Zealand semi-professional women's rugby league premiership (NRLW) was launched in 2018. This chapter charts the players' journey through the first two seasons of the competition. A questionnaire was distributed at the end of both seasons to all contracted players in each of the four clubs to capture feedback on their experiences, perceptions, challenges and suggestions for improvements. Players were asked about contracts, sacrifices, support, club culture and their views on coaching and training. The findings indicated despite significant stressors and challenges, players were highly appreciative of the chance to play in a semi-professional league, to be part of a landmark competition, and to inspire future generations of girls to play rugby league. Positive satisfaction across most dimensions of league and club practices and operations were evident in season one. By the end of season two, attitudes were changing, with data showing that players expected to obtain increases in remuneration, number of clubs, season length, media coverage and improvements in coaching, training and support services. Sports such as rugby league need to be particularly mindful of addressing issues arising, as options for women in professional team sports is growing rapidly and competition for talent will only accelerate into the future. This case study of women in rugby league demonstrates that women's experiences and perceptions are shifting from an initiation phase of gratefulness and acceptance of personal/family sacrifice for the opportunity to play semi-professionally, to having increased expectations of reasonable employment conditions and legitimacy as professional athletes.



Fujak, H., Taylor, T., Hanlon, C. and O'Connor, D. (2021), "Growing Expectations: Comparing NRLW Athlete Experiences", Bowes, A. and Culvin, A. (Ed.) The Professionalisation of Women’s Sport (Emerald Studies in Sport and Gender), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 193-210.



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