Photo: Yass Magpies (Sharon Prins Photography)

Yass Minor Rugby League is looking to expand their tackle and League Tag teams in the female-only divisions.

The push is no surprise in the fast-growing NRLW space with the Telstra Women’s Premiership expanding to six teams in 2021 and the objective of expanding to eight teams in 2022.

Yass Magpies Minor President and Ladies KFS Coach Mike Inkster said their registrations close on February 28.

“We’re trying to enhance and improve the numbers for the all-female tackle game and those numbers are not fantastic,” he said. “But that’s not unexpected given it’s a relatively brand-new concept.”

The Magpies’ lead tag boasts strong numbers like last year and those same players have returned.

Mike said the Magpies were hoping to have both an under 14s and under 16s girls lead tag team but unfortunately, it looks like the team will only have the numbers for an under 16s.

“It’s a steady climb,” Mike said. “So the numbers are increasing but we didn’t expect miracles year one.”

Mike said the numbers will come but he doesn’t think they will get them this year.

Just over the border the Canberra Raiders launched a bid for an NRLW license last November and will likely be fielding a team for the 2023 season.

A Canberra Raiders NRLW pathway would only expand the local women’s game – It would see the Katrina Fanning Shield competition serve as a talent pool for the top team into the future.

Katrina Fanning Shield player Hollie Massey said it would make the local comp “much stronger” and mean local girls won’t have to travel or relocate to Sydney to play at the highest level.

“This talent ID comp, as well as the prospect of an NRLW side, means that girls who want to stay in the region and keep playing footy here can,” she said.

The Yass Magpies Minor President said they would love to have an under 17s girls tackle team but since COVID-19 the numbers have been knocked around a lot.

“Again, it’s looking like we might not quite make an under 17 Girls tackle team this year,” Mike said.

However, with the Canberra Raiders optimistic of getting an NRLW team in next season Mike is optimistic.

“There’s a lot of a lot of attention and a lot of really good buzz around the female game at the moment.”

“All the Canberra clubs are roughly in the same position that we are there’s no one club that’s overflowing with female registrations at this point.”

“Everyone’s sort of pulling in the same direction to try and get the numbers there and get the all-female comps going,” Mike said. “But we’ve got a good number of female participants through the mixed comp.”

Mike said the Magpies have a reasonably good representation of the girls across the under 12s age groups however once they move into the age group above girls must play in an all-female competition.

“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “Realistically it’s going to take a number of years to flow through in regular numbers, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”

“We’re lucky in Yass, where our open women’s team have been great mentors for all the girls coming through the league tag and the tackle girls.”

“We’ve got some really good leaders in amongst that squad in the town locally,” he said. “Hopefully our expansion will be pretty quick given that we’ve got those excellent mentors there for the girls to look up to.”

Mike said rugby league is a great sport for building social skills, teamwork, and communication while gaining the respect of your teammates and coaches.

“It’s some good skills, good balance, good speed, good fitness, get them off the computer games and get amongst it socially,” he said. “That’s the main thing I see.”

“There’s been a lot of development in the female space in rugby league and it’s really good to see whether it be playing tag or playing tackle.”

“[Players] are in a team for the winter but the whole club is a real family team all year out.”

The Magpies can guarantee positions up until February 28 so register now before teams fill up. Email yassminorrugbyleague@gmail.com and the committee can help you through the registration process.

By Brianna O’Rourke