The rise of women’s Rugby League is set to reach new levels on an international scale, with the 12 matches of the historic 2017 Rugby League Women’s World Cup kicking off tomorrow (Thursday) in Sydney to be broadcast on free-to-air television in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
The tournament, which was launched in spectacular fashion at the new Sofitel Darling Harbour yesterday (Tuesday), also has government and corporate backing for its historic staging that will see the men’s and women’s champions crowned on the same day and stage in Brisbane (2 December) for the first time.
Players from Australia, Canada, Cook Islands, England, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea came together at the launch ahead of the opening round at Cronulla’s Southern Cross Group Stadium tomorrow and were told that the global spotlight would be on women’s Rugby League during the 17-day tournament.
“This is just an amazing moment in time for women’s sport,” said Harvey Norman CEO Katie Page, whose company has been a long-time supporter of women’s Rugby League in Australia and is sponsoring the Rugby League Women’s World Cup.
“Through Channel Seven, Sky TV in New Zealand and EMTV in PNG, millions of people around the world are going to be watching you. You are elite sports people and this is quite frankly what you deserve.”
RLWC2017 Chief Operating Officer Maria Sykes said: “To have the fifth staging of the Women’s World Cup broadcast into New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the UK via the RFL website, as well as Australia, will have an immeasurable impact on the game.
“Through this amazing partnership, we will create history on a number of fronts. It will be the first time ever that men’s and women’s world champions will be crowned on the same day at the same venue in world sport.
“Let’s be very clear about what that means. No other sport has had both men’s and women’s world cup finals played on the same day and on the same field.
“This will be the first time the Women’s World Cup will be broadcast live – not just in Australia but into New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
“This will be the first time the women’s teams have been given the same level of service for travel, accommodation, support staff, referees and game-day experience.
“And for the winners, it will be the first time they lift the new Rugby League Women’s World Cup trophy.”
RLWC 2017 CEO Andrew Hill said: “This is a truly historic moment for women’s Rugby League, not just in Australia but around the world.
“I thank the Australian, NSW and Queensland Governments for their great support that has made it possible for us to showcase the women’s teams to an international audience.
“I’m so proud that so many stakeholders have come on board with us. This is just the start. We are laying the blue print not just for women’s Rugby League, but hopefully other sports. We’ve now set the bar a little higher for other sports.”
With the support of the Australian, New South Wales and Queensland Governments the Rugby League Women’s World Cup 2017 pool matches and semi-finals will be played at Southern Cross Group Stadium from 16-26 November. The final will be played as part of a double-header with the men’s final at Brisbane Stadium on 2 December.
Australia will defend their title on home soil against pool rivals England and the Cook Islands; with New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Canada competing in the opposing pool.
Since the Rugby League Women’s World Cup started in 2000, it has been dominated by New Zealand (2000, 2003, 2008 winners), with the Jillaroos wresting the title from them for the first time in 2013.
Australian Jillaroos co-captain Renae Kunst said: “For many years, New Zealand were always the pinnacle of women’s Rugby League and it was only in 2013 that Australia had beat them for the very first time so that was a great occasion for us but it’s a new World Cup, it’s a new team, it’s a new six nations and we’re just looking forward to ripping in come Thursday.”
Canada Ravens and Papua New Guinea Orchids are competing in the Women’s Rugby League World Cup for the first time and players from both teams believe the tournament will have an impact in their countries.
PNG captain Cathy Neap said the Orchids were buoyed by the support they had received after being presented to the crowd at Oil Search National Football Stadium during last Sunday’s RLWC2017 match between the Kumuls and the USA.
“That moment was really special for us because back in the days if the girls were in front of the crowd like that, standing and waving at the crowd, we would get boos,” Ms Neap said.
“The whole nation was there and they were waving and smiling and calling our names, and we felt really special. Rugby League is the national sport of our country and the girls won’t forget that moment.”
The line-ups for the opening round of pool matches at Southern Cross Group Stadium tomorrow will be announced later today.