With the Katrina Fanning Shield set to become a talent ID competition for the Canberra Raiders' impending NRLW side, Group 16 has wasted no time in putting together a women's team to compete in the division.
NSWRL League and Club Support Coordinator, Jake McDonald, said that roughly 15 players had already put their names forward to be a part of the new side, which is a number he had not expected to reach until early 2022.
"Expressions of interest have been put out, and there's probably 15 girls that have committed so far," McDonald said.
"We'll probably get another handful if we can. Obviously we'd be open to girls from the bottom end of Group 7 if they were willing to travel, because they don't really have a table competition they can play in close to home.
"It's actually ticking along pretty nicely. I didn't expect to have that many girls committed by this time of year. I was thinking we'd hit that in February."
The KFS is the premier women's open tackle competition in Canberra Region Rugby League. Its new status as a proving ground for potential NRLW talent was confirmed last week during a press conference with Canberra Raiders CEO, Don Furner Jr, and competition namesake, Katrina Fanning.
"I think, with this pathway, we will keep much more talent close to home, and we'll give people who want to play here in Canberra a much better quality of game to participate in," Fanning said.
The proximity of the CRRL competitions, McDonald said, along with the allure of a clearer pathway to the ranks of the NRLW, are the primary factors behind the early surge of interest in the Group 16 women's side.
"There's been a bit of interest in the northern end of Group 16 for a while, we just haven't had the resources to put the team on the paddock, but it looks like all those things are falling into place this year," he said.
"Definitely the NRLW carrot is playing a huge part in women's rugby league right around our region, not just here on the South Coast. It's having the same effect through Canberra and up in the Riverina as well.
"It's the allure of not having to go to Sydney, it's a pretty common belief that if you want to go further in rugby league, you've got to go to Sydney. So we can break that mindset and provide a pathway for girls to stay within their own region."
The expanding opportunities for local women, McDonald said, will hopefully create more home-grown stars like Millie Boyle and Kezie Apps. He thanked the Canberra Raiders for their investment in the future of the sport.
"The Raiders should be commended for their commitment to the development of female rugby league in our region," McDonald said.
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