Girls dumped in rugby league no-man’s-land
WOMEN'S rugby league is the jewel in the crown of the Gladstone competition, but it still has one major hurdle to overcome - letting the junior girls play.
The code boasts two Queensland origin players, Chelsea Baker and Kody House, two new clubs and a following independent of the men's competition.
But junior girls who play alongside the boys are being left in the sporting wilderness at the age of 13 because of a National Rugby League rule.
The rule was implemented because of the "physical difference between males and females aged 13 years and onwards", according to the NRL's Richard Dugdale.
The NRL has tried to work around the rule "in country towns where the girls were left in no man's land" after reaching 13, said the regional manager.
"Insurance-wise we cannot let them play with the boys... basically it is insurance-based," he said.
"We're looking at ways of bridging the numbers and bridging the gap to getting an all-girls competition."
The alternatives are: introduce a shorter season; having fewer players on the field; or running the season at a different time to netball and hockey.
Some of the game's new initiatives have been working in Gladstone, and on Friday there will be the last match for the new Under-17s competition.
Development officer Rod Dahl said they had also formed an Under-16s Gladstone Girls side that had played against Central Highlands and Rockhampton "and under-17s against each other".
"We had development days early on in the year and had 50 girls ranging from 12 to 17," he said.
"Eventually you will see 13-year-old girls playing against each other.
"We need to take small steps and get it right, so by the time the young lady turns 17 she will be eligible to play A-grade."
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