NRLW player representatives have taken aim at the NRL for a lack of communication over the postponement of the season, which has left New Zealand-based players stranded in Australia indefinitely.
- It is unclear when the NZ players will return home, with the NRL working closely with government authorities
- WPAG says the NRL’s communication, level of support, and understanding of the effects of the delay is “not up to standard”
- The newly expanded six-team NRLW competition awaits its fifth season
Eight players signed to NRLW clubs across the competition arrived in Australia in early July but are now in limbo after the border closed between the two countries closed suddenly due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
NRLW was originally scheduled to start in August, was then shifted to October but will now be played at the start of 2022.
In a meeting of the RLPA women’s players advisory group (WPAG) on Monday night, complaints ranged from a lack of communication to a lack of support from the NRL over the decision to delay the competition.
WPAG has called on the NRL to make the repatriation of New Zealand players Karli Hansen, Ngatokotoru Arakua, Annetta Nu’uausala, Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly, Charlotte Scanlan, Katelyn Vaha’akolo, Maitua Feterika, Kararaina Wira-Kohu its main priority.
“We are committed to advancing the interests of the entire playing group and Women’s Rugby League, and we know it’s more important than ever to support each other and offer our voice when we can, and this is one of those moments,” a statement from the WPAG read.
“The New Zealand-based players made a significant personal commitment to relocate to Australia to play in the NRLW, and they are now stranded, unable to return home.
“Frustratingly, the communication, level of support and understanding of the effects the delayed competition announcement would have on the repatriation of these players by NRL leadership, has not met our collective expectations.”
The players stranded in Australia have taken time off work to prepare for the NRLW season and the part-time athletes now face uncertainty over when they can return home to their families.
For its part, the NRL is working closely with players and government authorities to get them home as quickly as possible, but the closing of the trans-Tasman bubble and a shortage of quarantine places in New Zealand makes it a desperate situation.
However, it’s a strong statement from NRLW players who last year were also unimpressed with the RLPA’s handling of their concerns when the season was in doubt.
“No-one can dispute the significance of the COVID-19 situation, and players are acutely aware of the effects it has had in their communities and for the game, however for everyone to find out 12 days before the official NRLW pre-season was due to commence that training was delayed, and then seven days later that the competition was postponed to 2022, was a bitter pill to swallow,” said RLPA’s general manager of women’s rugby league, Lina Caccamo.
“As the players alluded to, there is a significant amount of work to be done in the coming weeks, but getting the New Zealand-based players home needs to be the number one priority.”