“Massive when it happens” – Trio of England stars in NRLW talks

James Gordon

Three England women’s stars are still in talks over a switch to Australia and the NRLW, ahead of the new Women’s Super League season starting this Sunday.

Leeds duo Fran Goldthorpe and Georgia Roche, along with York’s Hollie Dodd, are in advanced talks to become the first English players to sign lucrative deals to move to the NRLW.

While nothing has been agreed, all three could yet still depart prior to the start of the Australian pre-season at the end of May.

Leeds and York kick-off the new Women’s Super League season live on Sky Sports on Easter Sunday at Headingley, as part of a double header with the men’s Super League clash between Leeds and Huddersfield.

Hugely impressed

Making her debut in that match is Leeds’ new Kiwi signing Georgia Hale, who will become the first former full-time NRLW player to feature in the Women’s Super League.

She arrived at Headingley with partner Sam Lisone, who signed for the Rhinos men’s team in the off-season.

The 27-year-old played for New Zealand in their World Cup semi-final victory over England, before they went down to Australia in the final.

Hale said: “We were hugely impressed with the England girls during the World Cup, especially given so many of them were having to juggle all sorts of things like motherhood, university and shift work. To still turn out the product they did was remarkable.

“The big strides they’ve made is really clear and the important thing now is that we focus on the growth at the levels below England, to ensure strong pathways and good development, so that you’ve got young players who are able to see a way to emulate their heroes.”

Far from bemoaning a potential drain of talent Down Under, Hale believes the first full-time move by an English player will spell a hugely-significant moment in raising the profile of the sport and extending those pathways to prove there is way for English women to make a living from the game.

Hale added: “”It will be a massive thing when it happens.

“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.”

More steps forward for women’s game

Leeds, York and St Helens are the three overwhelming favourites to dominate the new Women’s Super League season, which also features Huddersfield, Warrington and Wigan.

From 2024, the Women’s Super League will become an eight-team competition. There are currently six teams in the Women’s Super League Group 2 who will battle for the two sports to join the elite competition from next season.

The women’s game continues to go from strength to strength, with Sky Sports having pledged to televise at least three regular season fixtures, while others will be streamed via The Sportsman and the Our League app.

England will take on France as part of an international double header with the men in April, though the news of some of England’s stars possibly heading to Australia does of course create some logistical headaches.

If players do go Down Under, that will likely rule them out of mid-season internationals – though given the early nature of it this year, they could play for England before heading to Australia for the NRLW season and then return in time for any planned autumn fixtures.

England are already having to make do without Cumbrian three-quarter Georgia Wilson, who left Wigan at the end of last season to have a crack at making the NRLW via the Queensland Premiership set up at South Logan Magpies.

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.

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