With a lack of rugby league programmes and competitions for secondary school girls there is no pathway for young women wanting to chase a career in the sport.

The Upper Central Zone Rugby League is trying to change that.

For the past three or four years the Upper Central Zone Rugby League has been working with the Brisbane Broncos to help the zone's young league players develop as players.

Representatives from the club visit twice a year and this year the session is being opened up to female players, making the zone, which covers south of Auckland including the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Coastline and Gisborne Tairawhiti districts, the first in the country to do so with any Australian NRL Club.


Mel Bennett, who is the general manager of the Upper Central Zone Rugby League, says there are a lot of girls in the area keen to be part of the development camp, being held at Arataki Park on Saturday.

"We have kids coming from all over the zone for this camp. We've now got 190 kids attending," Bennett says.

"I think we've actually got more girls than we have got boys attending, we've got about 100 girls attending."

Brisbane Broncos' Elite Player Development (EPD) manager Simon Scanlan, the Broncos NRLW coach for the inaugural 2018 season Paul Dyer and Jack Reed, who retired from playing in 2016 at the age of 28 and with 126 NRL games and five tests to his credit will facilitate the camp. Participants will be grouped into age groups and will do 25- to35-minute drills with coaches focusing on skills development and different techniques of the game.

Brisbane Broncos' Elite Player Development (EPD) manager Simon Scanlan and Upper Central Zone Rugby League general manager Mel Bennett. Photo / File
Brisbane Broncos' Elite Player Development (EPD) manager Simon Scanlan and Upper Central Zone Rugby League general manager Mel Bennett. Photo / File

"It just keeps growing and growing every time in terms of numbers and how many people they're sending over to look at our kids."

Bennett says there are many skilled female league stars for local female players to look up to such as Honey Hireme, an athlete who has represented New Zealand in not only rugby league, but also rugby sevens and rugby union.

She wants to make sure those young players have an opportunity to reach the same level as stars like Hireme.

"At the moment we're trying to develop a pathway.


"For the women, what we do have now is the NRLW, which is the women's NRL programme but in between there is actually nothing, so there is no competition at secondary school level.

"Waikato are doing very well in terms of running an age group competition, Bay of Plenty are just starting but in order to grow the game we need to get buy-in from whanau and from the girls and these camps are a kind of forum that will help them figure out whether yes, they do want to play league and give it a crack or no they don't.

"The more we get interested that's more leverage for us to create competitions for these girls and try and build a pathway through the main NRL system."

With more women getting accolades and honours in rugby league, Bennett has high hopes for competitions for girls at secondary school level and wants to see "a secondary school grade for girls at nationals next year".

"Hopefully it's only a year away."