Phil Gardner has declared Newcastle as the ‘largest development club in the game’ as the Knights CEO officially launched the side’s NRLW outfit.
The Knights are one of three new teams, including Parramatta and the Gold Coast, to join the NRLW in 2022.
Gardner said the pathways now available to both male and females rugby league players in the region make the club a standout when it comes to developing local talent.
“What we are now the Newcastle Knights is the largest development club in the game,” Gardner said.
“ We have Laurie Daley and Andrew Johns sides, we have Harold Matts, SG Ball, Jersey Flegg [sides]. We have the NSW cup. We have the Harvey Norman and Tarsha Gale, the NRLW and NRL men sides.
“We are the biggest developer of rugby league talent both male and female in the game.
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“Our area is from Gosford to the Queensland border. Everyone that aspires to play rugby league, whether male or female, can come and play for the Knights, we have a pathway.”
The Knights announced the signings of seven local players, including Bobbi Law and Jayme Fressard, ahead of the side’s inaugural season, which will kick off against the Eels on February 27.
Law, a centre, joins the Knights from the Roosters having represented the indigenous All Stars and Prime Ministers XIII.
Former Brisbane centre Fressard was part of the Broncos’ 2020 premiership winning season.
As well as Law and Fressard, the Knights have added local miner Phoebe Desmond, 30, to the NRLW squad. Desmond, a front row forward, has been a mainstay in women’s rugby league in the Newcastle and Hunter Region.
Gardner also said the Knights are committed to growing the women’s game and building towards pay parity between male and female players at the elite level.
“There is a goal in our game to have parity between males and females. The women are currently part timers. So they are making huge sacrifices to play our sport. They are working, they are trying to build career and play football as well. It is much harder for the women than it is for the men,” Gardner said.
“It’s a real inspiration to all of us.
“One of our goals is to see parity right across male and females in our sport. Given the growth and the support from the sponsors that have come on board, I think we’ll see that in a short period of time.”
NRLW signings: Bobbi Law, Caitlan Johnston, Jayme Fressard, Georgia Page, Chantelle Graham, Kyra Simon, Phoebe Desmond
Development players: Bree Chester, Jesse Southwell, Kayla Romaniuk, Matilda Jones, Sophie Clancy and Tylah Vallance
Coach: Casey Bromilow