NRLW Semi Final - Dragons v Titans
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 03: Emma Tonegato of the Dragons makes a break during the NRLW Semi Final match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Gold Coast Titans at Leichhardt Oval, on April 03, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The NRL has finally secured the future of women's rugby league after reaching a mammoth five-year agreement that will extend the NRLW competition to a 20-week season, and a reported $1.5 million salary cap.

The RLPA and the NRL have been going back and forth for weeks on sorting the respective Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) for both the men's and women's games, nearly causing mass player strikes as the unrest ramps up.

Lead negotiator Brett Clegg was sought out by both parties to help mediate the agreement last Thursday, with sudden progress leading players from pulling out of their on-field protest, which included covering the NRL logo, delaying kick-off times and refusing media commitments.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 22: Isabelle Kelly of the Roosters is tackled by Jessica Sergis of the Dragons during the round three WNRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Allianz Stadium on September 22, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

However, the NRLW's CBA has reached a sudden breakthrough, guaranteeing the future of women's professional rugby league in Australia.

The NRL unveiled the agreement on Tuesday, which includes:

  • minimum wage of $30,000 in 2023, which is upped to $50,600 in 2027
  • a pregnancy policy, including leave provision
  • a $900,000 salary cap this season, rising to $1,518,000 in 2027
  • an increase to a 20-week season for 2023 and 2024 before extending to 23-weeks the following season
  • a rise to 24 players per squad, with an additional four development players
  • every club to receive a funded NRLW welfare officer
  • NRLW players to pocket 50% of the prize money for winning the premiership

Players have been set a May 24th deadline to secure their rosters, creating a mad dash to re-sign or recruit stars from last season.

Female players will also be able to sign multi-year deals for the first time with the salary cap outlined over a five-year period, while the 20-week season will consistent of seven weeks of pre-season, nine regular season games, semi-finals, the Grand Final and two weeks leave.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo is thrilled to have the future of women's rugby league sorted.

“The Australian Rugby League Commission is adamant that investment in the women's game be prioritised at every level and the finalisation of terms for the elite NRLW is just one aspect of that commitment,” Abdo said in the press-release.

NRLW Grand Final - Broncos v Roosters
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 25: Meg Ward of the Broncos and Jayme Freesard of the Broncos celebrate with team mates after winning the NRLW Grand Final match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on October 25, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“The proposed investment of $118 million across the five-year cycle at the elite level factors in future growth of the competition and is also supported by significant investment in pathways and grassroots participation as part of an overall strategy for women's rugby league development.

"I want to acknowledge and thank the players, RLPA, clubs, and all partners for their support as we worked through this historic agreement."

The competition was already announced to expand from six clubs to ten in 2023, adding the Canberra Raiders, Wests Tigers, North Queensland Cowboys and Cronulla Sharks into the mix.

The NRL is yet to finalise a start date or schedule for this year's NRLW competition, which is expected to be fast-tracked when the CBA is formally announced.