NRLW expansion an ‘unreal’ opportunity for female rugby league players in North Queensland

Jasmine Peters was 12 years old when she unexpectedly found herself drawn into the world of rugby league.

“My mom doesn’t like this story,” he laughed.

Peters’ soccer practice was canceled on the same day as her school’s rugby grand final and she convinced her father to take her.

“We went to the Mackay Junior Rugby League ground and I played my first rugby league game,” he said.

“It so happened that I also got Man of the Match, or Woman of the Match.”

Jasmine Peters is one of eight North Queensland Gold Stars players who were signed by the NRLW this year.(ABC North Qld: Lily Nothling)

Now 19 years old, Peters is a rising star in the NRLW.

He made his debut this year with the Gold Coast Titans and plays for the North Queensland Gold Stars, the region’s team in the state league.

The young team is made up of players from Townsville, Cairns and Mackay who train in satellite squads packed with local talent.

Eight Gold Stars were signed to the NRLW this year as the popularity of the sport continued to rise.

“Girls are becoming much more knowledgeable about rugby league and playing at a semi-professional level at a much younger age,” said coach Gavin Lloyd.

A women's rugby league team poses inside a large stadium
The North Queensland Gold Stars played their first match at the Townsville Stadium this year.(Supplied: North Queensland Cowboys)

The growth of the NRLW

Soon, more women from North Queensland, considered the heart of rugby league, could have the opportunity to play at the highest level.

The NRLW is on the cusp of a major expansion, with the Cowboys among several teams to apply to enter the competition beginning in 2023.

“I think it’s amazing,” Peters said.

“Just the fact that we’re getting enough screen time, we’ve got enough of an audience watching us play, it’s becoming a bigger game and creating those opportunities for other girls to be a part of the sport at that higher elite level. “.

A woman on a soccer field smiles with her arms crossed as other players warm up in the background
Gold Stars player Lauren Moss has her sights set on an NRLW debut.(ABC North Qld: Lily Nothling)

Donning a Cowboys jersey would be a dream come true for Gold Star players like Lauren Moss, who had her sights set on an NRLW debut.

“It’s the best news I think I’ve heard all year,” Moss said.

The 30-year-old mine worker, who was drafted to the Titans team that year but never played in the first grade, only joined rugby league about six years ago.

Women in rugby jerseys smile and congratulate a player on the field
Lauren Moss playing for the North Queensland Gold Stars.(Supplied: North Queensland Cowboys)

“I was just doing it for fun and enjoyment, but seeing the roads and seeing where we can go makes it even more exciting,” he said.

Making history

As part of the NRLW expansion, teams will move to a $350,000 salary cap that will increase player salaries by an average of 28 percent.

Lloyd said it was a promising sign for players balancing the delicate tightrope of work, sport and study with little compensation.

“I think the way it’s going, in two or three years they’ll probably be playing rugby for a living,” he said.

For Gold Stars captain Romy Teitzel, the prospect of a Cowboys women’s team would be very special.

A woman in a football jersey stands in front of an illuminated stadium and Cowboys sign at night
Rugby league is in Romy Teitzel’s blood. (ABC North Qld: Lily Nothling)

“Growing up in North Queensland, everyone looked up to the Cowboys, no matter if you were a boy or a girl,” he said.

Teitzel, who managed the Newcastle Knights in their debut season this year, said she was looking forward to seeing every NRL club one day field a women’s team.

“Like a lot of girls my age, we had nothing to aspire to growing up,” she said.

“The game has grown a lot in the last 12 months and, on a professional level, I think it will continue to grow exponentially.”

Aware , updated

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