IT has been postponed, but the fourth edition of the Western Women's Rugby League season still promises to be the biggest yet with an expanded draw and a new club on the agenda.
With the initial kick-off date for the season, September 18, not being possible given the current COVID-19 lockdowns and health regulations in New South Wales, member clubs agreed to postpone the competition until 2022.
At this stage no concrete dates have been set, but NSWRL Western Regional Manager Evan Jones said it is planned to start in late February or early March with an April grand final.
"Hopefully, if everything goes to plan, that timeslot coming off the back of summer when people are outside and hopefully with a high rate of double dose vaccinations as well, we should be fairly safe to commence then," he said.
"That means it won't overlap with the league tag season and we are just waiting on the Western calendar as to where it will sit exactly.
"There's a consideration naturally of the Country Regional Championships, which will be at the start of March. That will effect the open women's teams, but none of the juniors."
Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown of regional New South Wales, it was planned to run an expanded WWRL competition of eight rounds plus a top four finals series.
Previous editions have had five rounds prior to finals.
Jones said that a longer-format is still a possibility, especially if a new club joins those already involved - the Bathurst-based Panorama Platypi, Orange Vipers, Mid West Brumbies, Wiradjuri Goannas, Castlereagh Cougars and Woodbridge.
"There's a possibility it will still be a longer format and there's the potential of an expansion club to come in given we've got six months before the start of the season as opposed to what we were working on before," he said.
"So expansion clubs are being looked at, nothing is confirmed yet, but if they come in the comp will be extended beyond that five-week regular round competition."
As for where an expansion club will most likely come from, Jones said it is the Parkes-Forbes region.
"At the moment there is a bit of an overflow in most age groups from Woodbridge Cup and Wiradjuri Goannas," he said.
"Nothing has been looked at yet, but there is potential to form another club in that area for the season."
Whether or not a new club joins, the growth in participation in women's rugby league in the Central West is headed in the right direction. The new season is set to feature under 12s for the first time, joining the under 14s, under 16s, under 18s and open divisions.
"The female tackle game is still growing really organically and we find that the players who are coming to the game really enjoy the experience, especially the shorter length season, it's not an onerous commitment," Jones said.
"So they come in and they really enjoy the experience which means we have a really high retention rate for those players, so while that continues there will be really good growth.
"It's inevitable that we'll have to expand the competition at some point, it's just when that happens and how it's managed that we'll have to work out."
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