RFL reveal exciting national pyramid for growing women’s game

James Gordon
Women's national pyramid confirmed

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

The new national pyramid for the women’s game to come in to place for 2024 has been revealed, giving clubs in the south the chance to reach the Women’s Super League.

It comes as part of the ongoing strategy to grow the women’s game, which continues in earnest following the Women’s World Cup at the end of last year.

As has been previously reported, the Women’s Super League will comprise of eight teams in 2024, with a regional structure sitting underneath.

That top tier will consist of the six teams in group 1 of the Women’s Super League in 2023 – Huddersfield, Leeds, St Helens, Warrington, Wigan, York.

The teams in group 2 this year will fight for two promotion spots to join them, with the first placed team going up automatically and then another spot up for grabs via the play-offs. Barrow, Bradford, Castleford, Featherstone, Leigh and Salford are the teams in that competition.

National pyramid for the women’s game

The four remaining sides will form part of the new regional structure at tier 2 of the women’s game, which aims to have four leagues of up to eight teams.

Those leagues will cover the North (West Cumbria, North East and Scotland), Roses (South Cumbria, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Humberside, Greater Manchester, Merseyside), Midlands (Derby, Nottingham, Birmingham, Coventry) and South (South Wales, Greater London, Home Counties).

A regional play-off will take place between the respective winners of those four competitions to crown a national champion, who will then have the chance to play in a play-off for promotion against the team finishing bottom in the Women’s Super League, depending on them being able to meet minimum standards.

Those minimum standards for the Women’s Super League will include payments for players, which some clubs have already committed to from 2023.

Expansion strategy

Thomas Brindle, the RFL’s head of growth and general manager of the Women’s Super League, said: “National expansion has been part of our strategy for Women’s and Girls’ Rugby League since the introduction of the Women’s Super League in 2017. We have already seen the benefits in the two seasons of the Women’s Super League South, in terms of talented athletes from different parts of the country who can enhance the England programmes – and also in the development of Wales as international rivals to England.

“Now, on the back of the Rugby League World Cup last autumn which drove unprecedented media coverage and awareness for Women’s Rugby League, we are excited by the introduction of a national pyramid for 2024, providing a possible route to elite competition for players and clubs from all parts of the country.

“All of the regional leagues will be underpinned by girls’ future hubs at under-14s and under-16s level, and a separate programme aimed at girls aged 7-11.”

New team in the south

The current Women’s Super League south, which will essentially become the South Regional division in 2024, has grown to seven teams with the addition of Essex-based Thurrock T-Birds.

They will play home matches at Long Lane in Grays, starting their season at home to the British Army on May 27.

Cardiff Demons are the back-to-back champions of the WSL South, which also includes London Broncos, Bristol Golden Ferns, Bedford Tigers and Oxford Cavaliers.

Jodie Cunningham, the St Helens and England star who is the RFL’s National Women and Girls’ Development Manager, added: “The Women’s Super League South is such an important part of our plans for the development and growth of Women’s and Girls’ Rugby League, and it’s exciting to be a part of it.

“The six teams who have played in the first two seasons of the competition have shown so much enthusiasm and passion for the sport, and it’s fantastic that Thurrock, a club with such a strong pedigree in women’s rugby union, have joined up for 2023.”

Beneath the tier two regional competitions will be further localised competitions at tier three, introduced as demand grows. The RFL say this will be a mix of leagues, merit competitions or festivals, with promotion and relegation dependent on league and teams’ situations.

At the top level, Women’s Super League will have a four-team play-off from 2024, going in to a straight semi-final between 1st and 4th, and 2nd and 3rd, with the two winners then meeting in a Grand Final to crown the women’s champions.

There has been a 214% growth in the numbers of girls teams since the RFL embarked on their current strategy in 2017.

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