England star makes history by signing for NRLW club

James Gordon
Hollie Dodd

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

England international Hollie Dodd has become the first English player to sign to play in the NRLW competition in Australia.

Dodd, 19, has signed for Canberra Raiders, alongside Mackenzie Wiki, daughter of former New Zealand prop Ruben Wiki.

The back-rower played four times for England at the 2021 World Cup, scoring two tries against Canada. She was the Women’s Super League Young Player of the Year in 2022 playing for York Valkyrie.

Hollie Dodd told the Raiders’ website: “I am super grateful and excited to be on board at Canberra. I’ve heard so many good things about the city and I’m more than looking forward to representing the badge.

“I knew now was the time for a challenge within myself therefore, coming over and playing in the NRLW I’m ready to learn off world class athletes to help my development within the game.

“Training and playing as a professional athlete in the sport I have love for has been a dream of mine ever since being a child.”

Formerly at Castleford, Dodd became the youngest ever player to play in a Challenge Cup final at the age of 16 in 2019.

She played for York in the opening game of the new Women’s Super League season against Leeds on Sunday, but will depart for Australia ahead of pre-season training next month.

Raiders NRLW coach Darrin Borthwick added: “I obviously watched a fair bit of the World Cup and Hollie Dodd was a good performer for England.

“We’ve had a few Zoom calls with her and she fits the mould to what we want here as well. She’s a really good person and she was really good to talk to and to top it all off she’s a good player as well.”

Two overseas stars join expanding NRLW

Cook Islands international Wiki follows in the footsteps of her father, who played 224 games for the Raiders between 1993 and 2004.

Wiki said: “It feels surreal. I’m truly grateful to be a part of this amazing club.

“It’s an honour to follow my Dad at the same club. His first club was Raiders now my first club is Raiders. It’s just surreal.”

Canberra are a new club to join the NRLW for the 2023 season, alongside Cronulla, North Queensland and Wests Tigers.

Those four will take it to a 10-team competition, which already includes Brisbane, Gold Coast, Newcastle, Parramatta, St George-Illawarra and Sydney Roosters.

The first season took place in 2018. The NRLW is a significant draw to the elite women’s players, especially with a salary cap that has now grown to roughly £500,000, meaning an average player salary of £21,000. There are plans for that to be increased by a further 50% by the 2027 season.

More to follow?

The impact of a move by English players to the NRLW was championed recently by new Leeds signing Georgia Hale, who became the first player with NRLW experience to sign in the Women’s Super League for 2023.

Hale said: “We don’t want it to look like we’re losing talent, because it will show that England has the systems in place to produce players who can go all the way to the WNRL and experience both the sport and a totally different way of life.

“It’s not about putting WNRL on a pedestal, it’s about the whole package. We’ve seen in the men’s game how players go over there and bring back their experience back to the Super League. Personally I would love to see Super League teams develop relationships with WNRL sides so they can learn and feed off each other.”

Leeds Rhinos duo Georgia Roche and Fran Goldthorp, who were left out of the Sky Sports televised defeat to York, are also expected to confirm moves to rival NRWL clubs within the next few days.

York Valkyrie Director of Rugby Anfield said of Dodd: “We’re fully behind Hollie and backing her to become a success in the NRLW.

“I’m really proud that she has become the first Betfred Women’s Super League player to make the move to the NRLW.

“Hollie is young and ambitious and she wanted to take this opportunity.

“I’m so proud that the hard-work, dedication and effort she has put in during her rugby league journey so far, especially during her time here at York, has afforded her this chance.

“On behalf of the entire Club, we’d like to wish Hollie the best of luck in Australia. Hollie knows that she will always be welcome here at York RLFC.

“We don’t want English clubs to become feeders to the NRLW, as we’ve got to grow our own product, but equally, at this moment in time, they’re offering a lot to the girls over here.

“Losing Hollie would be a big a loss to any side, but we’ve got depth in our squad and we know that we’ll be able to cover where she is missing.”

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