NRLW staff have established a ‘Project Apollo’ style workshop to thrash out contingency plans should the women’s game get the nod from broadcasters this week.
As the men’s competition nears resumption next week, the game’s elite female players remain uncertain about NRLW, State of Origin and international competitions in 2020.
And while broadcasters Channel Nine and Foxtel are set to finalise rights for 2020, a small group of staff at NRL HQ have been poring over options to make the women’s game viable.
The biggest priority is maintaining integrity in the competition while cutting costs as clubs and head office have already taken a huge financial hit.
Numerous options have been considered including scrapping the NRLW to focus on State of Origin or international games, playing more or less matches and extending Origin to a three-game series.
However, AAP understands it is most likely to remain a four-team NRLW competition run concurrently through the NRL finals to replicate the 2018 competition model.
To cut costs, women’s games could be played as double headers with the men’s matches during the finals at stadiums equipped with four dressing rooms to abide by biosecurity guidelines.
On Friday the NRL’s interim chief executive Andrew Abdo confirmed rugby league’s elite women’s competition was being discussed with broadcasters and remained a priority for the 2020 season.
This is the first time the NRLW competition is being discussed as part of a broadcast deal alongside the men’s competition and any deal would give the women’s game security for upcoming seasons.
However, it could also stunt any planned or potential growth including an expanded season and adding more clubs to the competition for the duration of the deal.
It’s understood the NRL has already scrapped plans to proceed with plans for an extended competition this season.
Should broadcasters agree to a four-team, four-week competition, the NRL would need to ensure the licenses could be filled to meet the contract requirements.
The Roosters and Warriors have already flagged concerns about fielding a team this season due to the funding model, which is primarily the burden of clubs.
On Monday, Warriors chief executive Cameron George said he was in the dark about the NRL’s plans for the women’s game and has requested help from the New Zealand government to fund their team.
“Unless we get (NZ government) funding, it certainly is in jeopardy from our perspective,” he said.