Newcastle Knights eye NRLW with women's combine first move

The Newcastle Knights took a step towards having an NRLW team by holding a women's combine at Mayfield on Sunday.

The NRLW comprises four teams at the moment but the Knights are eyeing future inclusion in an expanded competition and are building a women's academy as part of their preparations.

The club received around 160 expressions of interest for the academy with around 60 athletes invited to take part in the combine, where players' athleticism, skill and potential for development was assessed.

Knights Academy coach Ben Farrar told the Newcastle Herald on Sunday the combine was also a way to unearth "a few rough diamonds".

"Today was a small step in terms of trying to get a women's [NSW] premier league team in next year with a look of a women's NRL team the year after," Farrar said.

"We know the girls who play rugby league in Newcastle and know the names who are at other clubs but we want a pathway for the Knights, so we're trying to get as many talented athletes as we can.

"That's what the combine was about, in terms of identifying whether they're netball, touch football, rugby union, basketball, anything that ticks a box of a potential rugby league player and trying to get them involved in the next couple of months."

An Academy squad of around 40 athletes will train over the next few months with a view to playing a game in June.

"They went through a series of skill-based exercises, like drills, catch-pass, tackle technique, some movement and some physical stuff in terms of their speed over 20 metres, plyometric capability and then a fitness test at the end," Farrar said.

"Athletes are athletes and, whether they catch a basketball or catch a football, it's all a pretty similar skill base, so you can pick up straight away whether they've got something. The more we can train up and have depth, the stronger the top level will be."

NRL elite female pathways manager Jamie Feeney was at the combine and said Newcastle and the Hunter region had strong credentials for entry into the NRLW.

"If you've got good strong competitions underneath, you're not just going to come in at the top level and go, 'We'll be here for a year or two and then we'll struggle to sustain our team and get the quality through and then there's no real pathway'," Feeney said.

"There's a really strong pathway up here, so girls can now register as a six-year-old, come through and play all of their life in the Newcastle region and not have to leave and be able to play NRLW. That's a massive positive for the Knights."

NRL are expected to make an announcement soon regarding the structure of this year's NRLW as well as on future expansion.

This story Knights women's combine move towards NRLW first appeared on Newcastle Herald.