The NRL and Grant on Tuesday again refused to give firm numbers, however the NSW, Queensland and Country rugby league associations all said while numbers were down, there was plenty of silver lining.
Across all three of the major associations, there is a broad trend towards a slight drop in numbers, driven by declining male participation but largely offset by exponential growth in the women’s game.
According to the NSWRL, for the 2016 season, its overall participation dropped from 40,824 in 2015 to just over 39,000.
NSWRL general manager of football Barrie-Jon Mather said while males players were down by 1000-1500, about 500-1000 females had picked up the game.
The QRL said it had 60,794 registered players in 2016, down from 61,291 the year before with a big jump in female numbers (3405 to 3832).
There was also an increase in participation in the QRL Northern Division (13,422 to 13,607) driven largely by North Queensland’s 2015 NRL premiership win.
The NSW Country Rugby League (CRL) said its numbers had fallen overall, a drop of about two per cent to 56,000, with men down one per cent.
CRL chief executive Terry Quinn said women’s numbers climbed from 5000 to 7000 and they were expecting further growth with three women’s tag competitions to start in 2017.