As women's rugby league continues to grow, a new initiative in the Illawarra aims to keep young girls interested in the game.
Registrations are now open for the Illawarra Junior Rugby League's newly created under-15s girls division.
There was previously no tackle division for girls between the 12 and 18 years age groups. The grade will deter players in that age bracket from leaving league.
The idea has proven a blessing for parents like Fairy Meadow's Pippa Stevenson. Her daughter Marli, 11, has played rugby league with the Corrimal Cougars in mixed grades for the past five years.
Without this new comp, 2020 would have marked Marli's final year in league.
Stevenson is Corrimal's female league coordinator and an advocate for the division.
"There's been a lot of feedback because there hasn't been any opportunities for girls once they get to the U/12s. That's the last chance they can play rugby league with the boys," she said.
"They don't get another chance until the U/18s and the girls have to play Oztag or league tag instead. You're now not losing them to the game. Before they had no other options but go to non-tackle. They might excel in those options and never come back to rugby league.
"Now, these girls can play in the U/15s and that gives them a pathway to play rep footy with the U/16s Steelers in the future."
Stevenson said she had tried to get Marli interested in league tag "for years".
"But she's good at tackle and she loves it," she said.
"When I heard this opportunity was coming up, I thought I needed to get involved for her. She has her last year playing U/12s with the boys and then she'll have the opportunity to go to the U/15s next year."
Stevenson said the junior league season starts in late March. There has already been interest shown in the new grade at the Cougars.
"We've got four girls registered so far," Stevenson said.
"The Cougars have a season launch coming up on February 29 at the Corrimal Surf Life Saving Club from 3pm. People can come along, do their registrations and ask any relevant questions."
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