The Goulburn Bulldogs might have lost a few players over the past couple of years, but they hope a successful Canberra Raiders' NRLW bid would provide a much-needed spark.
Bulldogs' Elly Hazelton said a number of factors, including two years of pandemic and all the travel, meant is was hard to recruit new players, but she was hopeful the emergence of a pathway to the elite level would help change that.
The Raiders put in their application to join the NRLW in 2023 last week, with the hope of becoming one of the two teams to get the nod.
The ACT government's also on board, having announced they would financially back the bid as they look to support women's sports at both the professional and grassroots level.
Hazelton will run out for the Bulldogs in their Katrina Fanning Shield season opener against the Yass Magpies in Yass on Saturday, but she would love for there to be a clear pathway.
"I think that would be such a great thing for our region," she said.
"It seems to always be country championships and stuff around here, but then as far that there's no real pathway for us girls to progress on - unless we're playing in Sydney - it's sort of hard to get recognised.
"Hopefully with this expansion we start to see more talent come out of Canberra into these competitions."
Yass's Hollie Massey said they had a few recruits from the surrounding region and she thought there would be more if the Raiders get an NRLW licence.
"Yeah I think so. This year they've got a South Coast team joining our competition," Massey said.
"We're expanding it to the regions for participation. Once the NRLW bid became a thing girls are wanting to get more exposure to footy and trying to get noticed.
"And I think that's why those girls are travelling [to Yass], which is awesome."
Goulburn and Yass have developed an ever-growing rivalry in recent years, with the two teams sharing last year's minor premiership when COVID-19 brought the competition to a close before finals.
Both teams were well clear of the chasing pack and Hazelton felt that added some unfinished business to their contest.
A Magpies-Tuggeranong combined effort won the competition the year before, with Yass also crowned premiers in 2019 - while Goulburn won it the season before that.
"Yep, it's always been us two," Hazelton said.
"I'm not ruling out any other teams, but in the last few years it has always seemed to be Yass and Goulburn in the grand final, and I'm sure it's going to be the same again this year.
"It's a battle of the two country towns."
Both teams have been desperate to put months of pre-season behind them.
Especially since the men's Canberra Raiders Cup was already up to the fourth round.
"We've been doing the exact same pre-season as [the men], but we were delayed by a few rounds so we've all really got itchy feet to start playing," Massey said.
KATRINA FANNING SHIELD ROUND ONE
Saturday: Tuggeranong Bushrangers v Woden Valley Rams at Greenway Oval, 10.45am; Harden Worhawks v Queanbeyan Blues at McLean Oval, 11am; Yass Magpies v Goulburn Bulldogs at Yass, 12pm; South Coast United v UC Stars at Batemans Bay, 3pm.
CANBERRA RAIDERS CUP ROUND FOUR
Saturday: Yass Magpies v Gungahlin Bulls at Yass, 3pm; West Belconnen Warriors v Goulburn Bulldogs at Kippax, 3pm; Tuggeranong Bushrangers v Belconnen United Sharks at Greenway Oval, 3pm; Queanbeyan Kangaroos v Woden Valley Rams at Freebody Oval, 3pm.
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