Rugby League: NZ Warriors confirm 2025 return to NRL Women's Premiership after five-year absence

NZ Warriors have confirmed they will field a team in the 2025 NRL Women's Premiership, as one of two expansion sides added to the 10-team competition.

The Auckland club was one of the four foundation teams in the inaugural NRLW, finishing third in both 2018 and 2019, but when COVID-19 closed the Australian and NZ borders in 2020, it was forced to field a team consisting mainly of Australian players, with just five Kiwis, also finishing third.

The Warriors withdrew from the 2021 competition and was not among the teams named for an expanded format the following year.

Warriors women perform a post-game haka against St George Dragons 2020.
Warriors women perform a post-game haka against St George Dragons 2020. Photo credit: Photosport

"It's obviously extremely exciting, not just for our club, but for women’s rugby league in New Zealand,” said Warriors chief executive Cameron George. "Our fans have eagerly awaited the return of their side to the NRLW stage.

"We saw that excitement pre-Covid and now, after plenty of work, we’re finally ready to go again.

"We were a big part of the competition before and we've been working hard to get back in ever since."

The Warriors appointed former Kiwi Fern captain Nadene Conlon to begin rebuilding the programme, with coaching appointments to come.

"There has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make this possible," said Conlon. "Now we can push on and set about bringing a team together for our re-entry into the NRLW next year.

"We're delighted it has come to fruition. The number of women playing the game in New Zealand has been growing so much and now the dream of representing the Warriors is becoming a reality."

With no existing pathway through the Warriors, many of the Kiwi Ferns national team have joined clubs across the Tasman to further their careers, joined by rugby sevens specialists. The NZ women's team showed their potential by beating world champions Australian in the inaugural Pacific Championship final last year.

"Covid forced so much of our local talent offshore, including myself," said former Warriors and Kiwi Ferns hooker Krystal Rota. "I went to Newcastle because there was no pathway here, so I have no doubt this announcement will lure some of those ladies back."

The Warriors and Canterbury Bulldogs will join Brisbane Broncos, Canberra Raiders, Cronulla Sharks, Gold Coast titans, Newcastle Knights, North Queensland Cowboys, Parramatta Eels, St George Dragons, Sydney Roosters and Wests Tigers in the 12-team competition.

Brisbane won the first three editions of the NRLW, while Newcastle are current two-time defening champions.