Rugby league: NZ Warriors under fire for not pursuing place in expanded NRL women's competition

NZ Warriors have been accused of not doing enough to support the growth of women's rugby league in New Zealand, after choosing not to enter a team for the upcoming NRLW season. 

Newshub understands most of the costs would not have fallen on the club and the NRL was surprised no application came from them.

The women's team haven't fully competed in the Australian competition for the past three years, but Warriors chief executive Cameron George maintains they are still a priority.

This week, the NRL announced it was expanding the women's field from six to 10 teams from 2023, but the Warriors' absence has left Kiwi Fern Madison Bartlett frustrated and wondering when - or if - she'll ever play for the club again. 

"The fact that nothing was said shows the importance - or lack of importance - that the women's game is to the Warriors at the moment," she said. 

George strongly rejects that and insists the NRLW side are still in the club's future plans. 

"We will look to rebuild the club within in the next few years and the NRLW is a big part of that," he told Newshub.

George says there are several reasons why entering a team next season is not feasible for the club, including still being based in Australia, but Bartlett and others say they've been left in the dark, and had hoped for better communication.

"When we're hearing mixed messages about why things got pulled and why we don't have a team, and you know the NRL are saying one thing, but the Warriors are saying something completely different... it would just be nice to have some faith in what's being said. 

George says he told the NRL the Warriors couldn't commit to a team this time round, but he has reaffirmed the desire to have one soon. 

Georgia Hale in action for the Warriors
Georgia Hale in action for the Warriors. Photo credit: Photosport

"Its something we've been a part of in the past, but obviously, it's been a huge challenge in the last few years," he said. 

Kiwi Fern Georgia Hale's played for and worked at the club, and says although it's disappointing, she insists it will be worth the wait. 

"Having a home team, there really is no other feeling like when you represent your nation," she said. 

Said George: "The NRLW is priority to the game in general and our club was a part of the first competition. We deem it as something that holds a special place in our club as well."

Both players and the club hope the return happens soon.