The South Sydney Rabbitohs remain 'extremely disappointed' with the NRL's explanation for excluding our Club from the inaugural NRL women's tournament - and are calling on Members and supporters to continue to get behind our undefeated women's team.
Rabbitohs Chairman Nick Pappas and CEO Blake Solly joined representatives from the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and the NRL, including CEO Todd Greenberg and ARLC Chairman Peter Beattie, at a meeting on Tuesday to gain a greater understanding as to why both Clubs were not granted licenses for the first season of the NRL women's tournament.
While the Rabbitohs remain extremely disappointed with the NRL's explanation as to why the Club was not included in the inaugural NRL women's tournament, the Club remains totally committed to the women's game and helping develop players who can represent their state and country while playing for the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
"We were told there were two reasons for our exclusion from the tournament," said Mr Solly. "First was our reluctance to recruit new players for this NRL tournament at the expense of our outstanding and undefeated Harvey Norman NSW Women's Premiership team.
"We were very clear in our application that our priority was to remain loyal to those players that had committed to our Harvey Norman NSW Women's Premiership team, had trained with us since January, and performed brilliantly this season.
Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly
"Our team features a number of Jillaroos and representative players at state level and from other nations, and we wanted to give these players the opportunity to form our squad for the inaugural NRL tournament."
"The second reason was our desire, in partnership with Souths Juniors, to focus on growing the number of girls and women playing rugby league in our district.
"Again we were clear that the best way to create a sustainable pathway was to show that girls and women who play rugby league in the Souths Juniors competition could develop through the Tarsha Gale and Harvey Norman NSW Women's Premiership, to the NRL competition and then hopefully represent their state and country.
"However other clubs promised to develop, recruit and relocate players from outside their current location and district. It was comforting to hear that the NRL intends to hold those clubs accountable for these promises as part of their review of the inaugural tournament."
The NRL also said it will not be reviewing its decision for the 2018 tournament, despite both the Rabbitohs and Sharks being leaders in the women's game.
Mr Solly said: "It was extremely disappointing to hear the reasoning behind our exclusion, as it seems to us the NRL placed little value or importance on creating sustainable pathways for female players to develop into elite and representative-level players over an extended period of time.
"Our pathway for boys and girls from the age of six right through to open age is one of the best, most-developed and well-established in the game; and we will concentrate on continuing to work with Souths Juniors on this pathway.
"We have not been given any assurances as to when our Club will be offered a license in the future, so we will maintain our commitment, through our partnership with Souths Juniors and the NSWRL competitions, to the women's game. However, we hope these players can represent South Sydney at the NRL level in the not-too-distant future.
"While not included in the original tender documentation, one of the main criteria appears to have been the willingness of a club to relocate players for the four weeks of the tournament.
"We ranked last out of the six teams in that criteria, as we did not want to recruit a lot of new players and wanted the bulk of the squad to come from our current and undefeated Harvey Norman NSW Premiership team.
"Our Members and supporters know too well the frustration and disappointment that follows the NRL's application of 'criteria' to determine entry into a competition. However, just as we have always done, we will continue to fight for what is right. So we're now calling on you, the Rabbitohs community, to support the Club and send a message to the NRL that this exclusion is a mistake.
Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly
"The best possible way to do this is by becoming a Women's League Member and continuing to attend matches throughout the 2018 Harvey Norman Premiership season."
"Our Women's team played in front of over 15,000 people on Good Friday against the Bulldogs and when they run out on Mother's Day at ANZ Stadium, we want as many of you as possible there to show you support our team and the fight for future entry into the NRL's tournament."