No room for women's NRL yet: Aussie capt

Steve Zemek

Outgoing Australian women's rugby league skipper Renae Kunst says it's too early to introduce a national competition to rival the AFLW.

Kunst will line up for her third and final World Cup starting at Cronulla's Southern Cross Group Stadium on Thursday and has seen the women's game in Australia take a quantum leap during her career.

Female rugby league participation has sky-rocketed over the past decade, and in 2017 grew by 33 per cent nationally, on the back of the NRL investing in women's pathways such as the NSWRL Tarsha Gale Cup under-19 Nines competition.

Women's sport has undergone a boom in recent years with the AFLW, Women's Big Bash League and Super Netball all experiencing massive growth in sponsorship, interest and media coverage.

England this year introduced a short female tournament to run alongside the Super League, which is expected to strengthen their side heading into the World Cup.

Kunst, who along with fellow co-captain Stephanie Hancock will hang up her boots at the conclusion of the Jillaroos' World Cup campaign, said Australia didn't yet have the player depth to support a women's national rugby league club tournament.

"I certainly think there are talks in place at the moment," Kunst said of the prospect of a women's NRL.

"What that time frame is, I'm unsure, that's up for the powers-that-be to decide.

"For us girls, we don't want to push something onto centre stage too early because it all comes down to being a really good product, that's what's going to promote sustainability in our game.

The Jillaroos come into the World Cup as defending champions, having snatched the title from three-time winners New Zealand in 2013, and are unbeaten in 2017.

Kunst said it was hoped that Australia players would be able to be fully professional in the next one to two years and she was leaving the game in a far better place than when she came through the ranks.

"My first World Cup in 2008 was a self-funded tour," Kunst said.

"I know we had some team sponsors but there was only a certain amount of money in the pool.

"Everything was restricted, even down to the food, where you were put on rations because there was only so much.

"Fast forward to now, you've got a buffet at every meal and for us big rigs we've got to make sure we don't the buffets too much."