NRLW players take swipe at NRL over delay

·3-min read

NRLW player representatives have taken aim at the NRL for a lack of communication over the postponement of the season that has left New Zealand-based players stranded in Australia indefinitely.

Eight players signed to NRLW clubs across the competition arrived in Australia in early July but are now in limbo after the border was suddenly closed between the countries due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

NRLW was originally scheduled to start in August, was then shifted to October but will now be played at the start of 2022.

In a meeting of the RLPA women's players advisory group (WPAG) on Monday night, complaints ranged from a lack of communication to a lack of support from the NRL over the decision to delay the competition.

WPAG has called on the NRL to make the repatriation of New Zealand players Karli Hansen, Ngatokotoru Arakua, Annetta Nu'uausala, Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly, Charlotte Scanlan, Katelyn Vaha'akolo, Maitua Feterika and Kararaina Wira-Kohu its main priority.

"We are committed to advancing the interests of the entire playing group and Women's Rugby League and we know it's more important than ever to support each other and offer our voice when we can, and this is one of those moments," a statement from the WPAG read.

"The New Zealand-based players made a significant personal commitment to relocate to Australia to play in the NRLW, and they are now stranded, unable to return home.

"Frustratingly, the communication, level of support and understanding of the effects the delayed competition announcement would have on the repatriation of these players by NRL leadership, has not met our collective expectations."

The players stranded in Australia have taken time off work to prepare for the NRLW and now face uncertainty over when they can return home to their families.

For its part, the NRL is working closely with government authorities to get them home as quickly as possible, but the closing of the trans-Tasman bubble and a shortage of quarantine places in New Zealand makes it a desperate situation.

It will be intensified once the Warriors finish their season this weekend with NRL players also needing approval to get home.

However, it's a strong statement from NRLW players who last year were also unimpressed with the RLPA's handling of their concerns when the season was in doubt.

On Wednesday the NRL finally announced the postponement of the 2021 season to the start of next year, claiming they had exhausted all options to run the competition, including relocating to Queensland.

It's understood up to half of the NRLW playing group as well as club staff could not commit to a Queensland-based bubble, which would include two weeks of hotel quarantine, a four-week preseason and a seven-week competition.

Players with families, jobs and other responsibilities were deterred from moving away from their homes for three months on semi-professional wages.

NSW-based clubs Newcastle and Parramatta are new to the women's competition and were desperate to play home games in front of crowds to start building a supporter base.

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