Super W to remain unpaid competition as women play for love of the game

Super W
by Emma Greenwood

They play an "exciting, fierce brand of rugby" but Super W players will continue to play for the love of the game, with Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle confirming the competition has to evolve before it can become a sustainable professional league.

Castle challenged the country's best women's players to lift the standard of competition even further as she launched the third season of Super W in Canberra today.

Castle praised the growth in the competition last year after its inaugural season in 2018 and she has challenged players to hit another gear in season three.

"The success of the competition has also led to the double-digit growth of female participation over the last two years as the competition grows … and we expect to see this number continue to rise," she said.

"The challenge for the class of 2020 is to back it up and to go one better and grow the standard of competition ever more.

"These athletes (play) an exciting, fierce brand of rugby which has captured the imagination of fans and we're looking forward to seeing what's in store in season three."

Six matches will be played as double-headers with Super Rugby games in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and be broadcast on Fox Sports, while every game of the competition will be broadcast on RUGBY.com.au and Kayo.

But that alone won't lead to player payments, unlike women's sevens, which has full pay parity with the men.

"With our women's sevens we have equal pay parity. They are full-time integrated professional athletes," Castle said.

"They play on a world circuit which is part of a world rugby product and that, for us, is where the pay parity conversation comes in.

"For the women's XVs game, the first thing we have to do is make sure we give them the highest level of coaching we can give them, enough support around athletic performance to be the best athletes they can be and allow them to balance the requirements of being professional athletes and still working.

"What will happen over time is that we'll grow towards paying the players to play Super W.

"We are having Test match payments for the first time for our Wallaroos this year, so that's an exciting step forward but we have to make sure that we crawl and then walk and then jog and then sprint."

The juggle between work and training is also likely to affect any push for the competition to expand to a full home-and-away season.

"Once again, you've got to balance the fact that you've got girls who are trying to work, so that you've got to think about whether that balances with them still being able to have careers and still be able to be professional athletes," Castle said.

"Overlay (the fact that) the top girls have got Test matches to play on top of that and they're trying to balance that workload.

"So we have to think long and hard before we make that step. It's working really well for us at the moment and we'll take that into consideration."

Competition kicks off this weekend, with the Rebels women hosting the Waratahs in the first leg of a double-head at AAMI Park in Melbourne, before the Brumbies host Rugby WA women at GIO Stadium in Canberra on Saturday ahead of the Brumbies-Highlanders Super Rugby clash.

The Reds women have a round one bye but take on Fiji at Ballymore on Sunday.