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In a major boost for New Zealand rugby league, the One New Zealand Warriors will return to the NRLW in 2025 after a five-year absence.

The Australian Rugby League Commission today announced their inclusion as one of two clubs to be added to an expanded 12-team competition in 2025.

While the draw is yet to be confirmed, the likely structure will include an eight-week preseason, an 11-round regular season and a two-week finals series.

“It’s obviously extremely exciting, not just for our club but for women’s rugby league in New Zealand,” said One New Zealand Warriors CEO Cameron George.

“Our fans have eagerly awaited the return of their side to the NRLW stage. We saw that excitement pre-Covid and now, after plenty of work, we’re finally ready to go again.”

Work behind the scenes on both the logistics and resourcing necessary to successfully re-enter the competition has been going on since the club officially returned to Go Media Stadium after the 2022 season.

Though major appointments like a head coach and marquee players were yet to be made, George said the green light from the NRL meant the club could now make moves.

“We were a big part of the competition before and we’ve been working hard to get back in ever since.”

George said the Warriors’ legacy in the NRLW serves as a testament to their commitment to women’s rugby league and a desire to reclaim their position at the forefront of the sport.

The Warriors appointed leading New Zealand rugby league administrator Nadene Conlon as the club’s NRLW academy manager more than a year ago to create a development and pathways programme ahead of a planned return to the competition.

“There has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make this possible,” said the former Kiwi Ferns captain.

“Now we can push on and set about bringing a team together for our re-entry into the NRLW next year.

“We’re delighted it has come to fruition. The number of women playing the game in New Zealand has been growing so much and now the dream of representing the Warriors is becoming a reality.”

The Warriors were one of four foundation clubs alongside Brisbane, St George Illawarra and the Sydney Roosters when the NRLW was launched in 2018; they played in the competition for the first three seasons before the Covid pandemic’s impact forced them to withdraw.

Krystal Rota, a member of the Warriors’ inaugural NRLW team, shared her excitement about the club’s return.

“It’s so exciting. I remember that feeling of pulling on the Warriors jumper for the first time. It was so special, it’s every kid’s dream if you grow up playing rugby league in Aotearoa,” she said.

Rota’s journey exemplifies the significance of the NRLW in providing a pathway for local talent to shine on the international stage.

Reflecting on the impact of Covid on women’s rugby league in New Zealand, Rota felt there was now an opportunity to lure some lost talent back home.

“Covid forced so much of our local talent offshore, including myself. I went to Newcastle because there was no pathway here so I have no doubt this announcement will lure some of those ladies back.”

The Warriors’ return to the NRLW promises to reignite the passion for the sport among players and fans alike, providing an invaluable opportunity for homegrown talent to showcase their skills in the famed Warriors strip.

With further details set to be announced soon, the stage is set for the Warriors to embark on a new chapter in their NRLW journey.

24 May 2023

Black Ferns Sevens player Tyla Nathan-Wong is the latest New Zealand rugby star to swap codes and move across the Tasman.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has agreed to release Nathan-Wong from her contract at her own request to pursue an opportunity to sign for the St George Illawarra Dragons in the NRLW.

The Dragons confirmed the signing in a tweet on Wednesday: “Olympic gold medalist and rugby sevens gun Tyla Nathan-Wong is now a Dragon.”

Nathan-Wong joins fellow Sevens teammate Niall Guthrie (née Williams) and five-cap Black Fern Cheyelle Robins-Reti as new signings in the women’s rugby league competition.

Nathan-Wong has been involved in the Black Ferns Sevens programme since her debut in 2012 at the age of 18. She has been a pivotal player for the Black Ferns Sevens during this time, achieving a number of milestones on the world stage. Notably she has won two Sevens Rugby World Cups, Olympic silver and gold medals, Commonwealth Games bronze and gold medals, alongside seven Sevens World Series titles.

The 28-year-old said league has always been in her blood and the opportunity to play in the NRLW was a dream.

“I come from a big league family, so that’s where my love for league has always been,” Nathan-Wong said.

“That was my very first sport as a kid at like six years old. I was playing alongside the boys and my cousins and dad were the coaches. I’ve always had this massive love for league and followed the NRL. When the NRLW first started a few years back I was like, ‘man, that is so cool’. Obviously I was in the thick of it with the sevens programme then and been like, ‘how cool would it be to one day jump across’. Post-Tokyo Olympics that actually sprung up again and I thought this could actually be a viable option for me.

“We forecast ahead and looked at what the season would look like and there was this big break at the end of 2023. That’s the perfect opportunity to finally allow this other dream of mine to finally come to fruition and really jump in head first into it and that’s what I’ve done.”