The NRL has backed two female footballers from opposing teams captured locking lips in a kiss after the image sparked backlash by a handful of fans online.
A photo of women's State of Origin players Karina Brown, who plays for Queensland, and New Zealand-born Vanessa Foliaki, of New South Wales, was posted to the NRL's social media accounts after the thrilling game came to a conclusion last night.
New South Wales Captain Maddie Studdon led NSW to a defiant win in the inaugural Women's State of Origin and became the poster girl for female athletes in Australia.
But it was Foliaki and Brown who stole the limelight, who have been in a relationship since they were selected to represent the Jillaroos in 2014.
The pair claims the rugby league family "wants us to get married" and that the "coaching staff are supportive. We're feeling all the love".
The image of the couple kissing was met with disdain from some fans, one who claimed it was a "bad move" by the NRL. The NRL responded with: "Welcome to 2018 … can't wait for you to join us!".
Another claimed the NRL was "already sexualising the women's league" and that it was "one step forward three steps back".
The NRL replied: "If we can post a of Cooper Cronk and his wife Tara kissing, then we can share a photo of Karina Brown and Ness Foliaki sharing a moment too."
In the lead up to the game the couple told NRL.com they have spent their relationship "competing against each other on several occasions".
The couple said the State of Origin would be "their biggest relationship challenge yet" and that their relationship "has never been an issue among their teammates and support staff".
"Karina saw me across the room. We were drinking at the bar and she decided to shout everyone a drink, have a skolling competition and couldn't beat me. I smashed her. It started from there," Foliaki said.
The inaugural Women's State of Origin has been hailed as the first step towards parity with the men's game after a successful night saw NSW claim a 16-10 victory over Queensland on Friday night.
Despite missing a host of stars — including Ruan Sims and Caitlyn Moran — and losing Corban McGregor and Rebecca Riley to injury in the first-half, NSW toughed it out to claim the historic win at North Sydney Oval.
The match was a giant leap forward for women's rugby league. The annual match has been known as the Interstate Challenge for the first 19 years and it was the first time the game carried the Origin branding. A healthy crowd of 6824 watched on at North Sydney and the match was broadcast live on Nine Network and Fox Sports.
In April, controversial rugby player Israel Folau came under fire after saying gay people are destined to go to hell.
In a comment to a follower, who asked the Wallabies player what was "God's plan for gay people", he responded: "HELL. Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God."
Yet the women's teams hope the concept could be expanded in years to come to a three-game series, similar to the men's Origin.
As well, halves were only 30 minutes because of concerns about the fitness levels of the players, who are only semi-professional.
They were looking for that marquee Origin game and they got it," NSW coach Ben Cross said.
"Queensland came with a terrific attitude and the game wasn't the prettiest game — execution wasn't the best.
"But that's what Origin is all about — both teams were so gritty and tenacious in defence. Some of the physicality and some of the hits out there, it was a real Origin. They proved their worth to have Origin alongside their name."
It's hoped that the game will develop in future years, especially with the inaugural NRL Women's Championship at the end of the season expected to life the standard of the female game.
Asked if future Women's Origin should be 40-minute halves, Queensland coach Jason Hetherington said: "I think you'd have to progress up to it. "You could go to 35 and see how that works and eventually get up to 40 but I think it'll be a bit of time before that happens." Maroons skipper Karina Brown called it a watershed moment for rugby league. "It makes me smile," Brown said.
"The future generations are out there and they're playing rugby league because they've got heroes now — female heroes. It's fantastic for the game. "I'm sure that's where we'll get to (three games). For now I'm just happy we're playing Women's State of Origin and the game will keep evolving and getting bigger and better."