Rugby Australia say they have no problem with star players juggling representative careers in union and league after Millie Boyle was picked to play for NSW in the women’s State of Origin series.
Boyle, who played for Queensland in the Super W final in April is set to play for the Blues and be named in the Wallaroos July Test squad inside 48 hours next week.
Boyle was picked for the NSW Origin team off the back of her performance in the recent rugby league women’s nationals competition and will likely also be selected in the Wallaroos’ squad for Tests against Japan after a standout Super W season.
Australia’s squad will be named late next week while the women’s Origin match is on Friday June 21, three weeks out from the first Wallaroos Test.
It’s a strange thought but it’s an occurrence that Rugby Australia has no plans to block in coming years, confident that it can offer prospective Test players enough to keep them in rugby in the long-term.
A number of capped Wallaroos and ex-Aussie Sevens players featured in rugby league’s national championships but that competition is not intertwined with the NRLW that kicked off in 2017.
Origin representatives do not need to be playing NRLW to be eligible and there’s no urgency in rugby to try and restrict players from playing both forms of rugby in Sevens and XVs or any other football codes.
The two calendars rarely clash and though there is believed to be plans for NRLW clubs to restrict the code-jumping of its athletes, Rugby Australia’s head of women’s rugby Jilly Collins is confident the growing global game remains a major attraction of rugby.
Collins said Rugby Australia was in regular contact with all of its players about their future plans and ultimately they simply had to make it clear what rugby had to offer.
“Certainly I hold a view that at the moment and it extends beyond the two rugby codes, more girls playing any format of sport where they're picking up a ball and running with it is actually great for us because it just brings up skill and ability of all those players,” she said.
“I just need to focus on making rugby as attractive as possible for those players. There'll be some that may play both, there’ll be some that choose one and choose the other.
“I can only control what we do and ultimately the players will decide what they want to do.
“We're in regular contact with all of our players around their plans. So we just need to make sure that we're having those open conversations with players around what they want.”
While Collins didn’t rule out revisiting some of the pay structures fro women’s XVs down the track, priorities are more steered towards investing in improving facilities and local competitions as well.
Wallaroos currently receive match payments and Super W teams have their travel costs covered while Australia’s women’s Sevens players are contracted full-time.
“We're exploring all of those options at the moment,” she said.
“It is a limited budget and we need to make sure we prioritise what needs to happen first, so they're all live conversations happening at the moment from 2020 season onwards.
“We're making sure that we involve players in those conversations and all the stakeholders that need to be and make sure we build that right - what's best for the players and also investing in the right areas of the game so there is a long-term sustainable pathway for XVs rugby.
“Sevens have full-time professional contract because of the nature of the competition structure and you can't really expect them to do anything else but our priority in the XVs game is to almost build a dual career approach where you're supported and remunerated through your rugby but the schedule allows you to have a career outside of rugby.”
The Wallaroos’ match schedule has doubled in recent years with four Test matches this season and that growth is expected to continue beyond that even ahead of the next World Cup in 2021.
There are plans in place for a new Rugby Championship-style tournament, reportedly involving New Zealand, Canada, the USA and Australia, that would feed into a women’s version of the much-touted Nations Championship.
The top nations from each hemisphere’s competition would face off in annual playoffs, similar to the format of the proposed men’s tournament.
Expansion is also being contemplated for the Women’s Rugby World Cup, Collins said.
“The 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, it’s a 12-team tournament with 12 competitive teams.
“World Rugby are keen to expand that by 2025 to 16 teams.
“The game's only growing internationally, so if you're a player looking at it and looking at all of the opportunities that rugby can afford you one of those massive selling points for me is you can play against and compete against nations from all over the world, which is exciting.”
Locally, there are also plans in place to develop an U18s version of Super W, refining the current U18 and schoolgirls nationals that will be held in July.
The Wallaroos play two Tests against japan in July, with the first on July 13 at Sportsground No. 2 in Newcastle. More info here.