A bold five-venue plan for a Queensland-based Rugby World Cup for women in 2029 is being discussed as a possible hosting model.
The idea is in its infancy but the fact it is already being discussed in Queensland is a positive pointer that the showpiece of the women’s game is a sought-after event.
Any hosting model around Australia will require the backing of the relevant State or Territory Government as a persuasive piece of the puzzle.
The women’s tournament is unlike the men’s event in hosting terms.
Next year’s World Cup in France and the recently-won 2027 World Cup for Australia will take the tournament around the respective countries with a multitude of big, crowd-pulling match-ups.
The editions of the World Cup for women have traditionally been based more around regions of countries.
For example, this year’s tournament in New Zealand is centralised around three venues in Auckland and Whangarei on New Zealand’s North Island.
The 2017 Irish model was pool play in Dublin and the play-offs in Belfast.
The Australian bid that lost out to NZ was a Hunter-based model with significant NSW Government backing to bring that event to Maitland and Newcastle.
The scale of the women’s tournament makes a regional hosting viable with just 26 matches amongst 12 nations rather than 48 amongst 20 nations for men.
The women’s game is growing on a major scale worldwide and the 2025 edition, recently awarded to England, will set new standards.
Already, World Rugby’s new Director of Women’s Rugby Sally Horrox is talking animatedly about England’s ambition to fill Twickenham’s 82,000 seats with a record crowd for women’s rugby at the 2025 final.
A Queensland hosting model for 2029 would embrace a rebuilt Ballymore, a Gold Coast venue, Townsville’s impressive Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Sunshine Coast Stadium and Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
By the end of next year, Ballymore will also be the base for women’s rugby in Australia with the National Rugby Training Centre built-for-purpose.
Venues of different sizes are needed to cater for the very differing appeal of an Italy v Japan pool clash and a Wallaroos match against New Zealand or world No.1 England.
The potential and importance of women’s rugby has grown so much in a few years that revisiting the Newcastle model just won’t fit the purpose in 2029.
If Rugby Australia is to get the bang it wants from the 2029 World Cup, it has to be big, loud and active in competitor markets where NRLW and AFLW have taken off.
This means a multi-hub model is strongly considered that embraces both the heartland rugby states of Queensland and NSW to potentially bewitch girls who might otherwise think the NRLW is their only footy path.
The other big factor is how eager the Western Australian, South Australian and Victorian State Governments have been to commit money to lure Wallabies’ Tests to their capital cities this season.
Perth will host the English in July. The SA Government has pitched and won hosting rights in Adelaide for the August 27 Test against South Africa. The All Blacks are heading to Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium in September and to the MCG next year.
There is also a delicate balance. The women play just three pool games, not four like the men, so you can’t sprinkle the Wallaroos thinly across the country.
The NSW Government might well hatch a 2029 World Cup hosting plan to embrace the Hunter and Sydney.
But if it was up to Wallaroos captain Shannon Parry, there's little question where the Final should be held.
“I’d play it at Suncorp,” Parry said when the event was confirmed
“I think anywhere at home is somewhere special and I think we’ve seen the effectiveness from the Sevens of having the Commonwealth Games, Sydney Sevens and how big of a crowd the women’s game can draw to a stadium.
“It’s truly exciting but for me, there’s nothing like playing at the cauldron.”
Whatever potential hosting plans are thrown forward, there will be robust discussion. What best suits the development of women’s rugby in Australia should be at the core.