The Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) and the National Rugby League have reached an in-principle agreement on a new pay deal for women in the NRLW.

Under the agreement, the minimum wage for players will rise from $30,000 this year to $50,000 in 2027.

The NRL says it will invest $118 million in the women’s game over the next five years

The salary cap will almost triple this year, in the first year of the agreement.

The women’s league will expand again in 2025, with the league and players’ union finally finding common ground and setting the next five years of the competition in stone.

The league and players’ union confirmed on Tuesday they had reached an in-principle agreement on financial terms for a women’s collective bargaining agreement, with this year’s expanded 10-team NRLW competition to begin on about July 21.

Under the terms of the agreement, the 2023 and 2024 NRLW seasons will include a nine-round regular season before two weeks of finals.

Players will also be given two weeks of annual leave as part of their contract, along with seven weeks of pre-season training, to make for a 20-week commitment.

State of Origin will stay at two matches for at least the next two seasons before potentially going to three, with representative matches falling outside the club window.

Teams will be granted a salary cap of $900,000 for this season at an average of $37,500 per player, with the cap to go to more than $1.5 million in 2027 at an average salary of $62,500.

Newcastle Knights NRLW players celebrate with the premiership trophy.
The NRLW will expand to 10 teams this season. (Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

The next expansion is likely to come in 2025, with the possibility of two extra teams taking the competition to 12 sides, with funding already set aside for it.

That will coincide with the total commitment growing to 23 weeks, with an extra two rounds likely as well as an extra week of finals or an additional week in the pre-season.

“The ARLC (Australian Rugby League Commission) was adamant investment in the women’s game was prioritised at every level, and the finalisation of terms for the elite NRLW is just one aspect of that commitment,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said.

“The proposed investment of $118 million across the five-year cycle at the elite level factors in future growth of the competition and is also supported by significant investment in pathways and grassroots participation.”

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All remaining clubs without a side — Melbourne, South Sydney, Canterbury, Penrith, Manly and the Dolphins — have previously signalled their intent to join the competition.

The women’s league will continue to be played alongside the end of the men’s NRL season, with a double-header grand final.

The framework means players will be able to start entering contracts shortly, after months of fearing any serious injury would cost them an entire season’s salary.

Players will also be able to enter multi-year deals as part of the competition’s new structure, while four development players at each club will be paid for the first time.

A pregnancy policy will also be enacted, which will allow players to step away from the game for 12 months while still keeping their contracts.

Clubs will be able to access a replacement player during that period, while support will be provided for primary carers for 24 months.

Negotiations remain ongoing between the players’ union and the NRL on the men’s game and an overall collective bargaining agreement, with that deal rolling over from last season.

“Agreeing to these financial terms will now give NRLW players financial certainty and security ahead of signing contracts for the 2023 NRLW season and beyond,” RLPA chief executive Clint Newton said.

“Although this is not a final agreement and several significant terms are yet to be agreed, this is a big step toward securing their first ever CBA.”