2017 NRL Participation

The high-level numbers show declining participation in registered male contact rugby league club competitions – 2% each year 2014-17 – and annual churn in club competitions of 30%. Even given a minor increase in total participation in 2017, these numbers indicate the challenge the game is facing.

  • Female participation increased 33% compared with last year, and the announcement of increased competitions across Australia now provides a clear pathway for females six years and older to play Rugby League, right through to the elite level.
  • At the grassroots level, more than 66,376 women participated in events and gala days, including the biggest schoolgirl Rugby League tournament ever to be held in New South Wales


An increase in senior males, new and returning players and the continual growth of female participation has seen Country Rugby League record a 3.5% increase in registered players in 2017.

More than 9,000 female players registered to play rugby league in 2017 – an increase of more than 32%. In fact, half of all nationally registered females playing a form of rugby league or tag competitions are from regional areas.


The NSWRL recorded an increase in Junior League Participation with an impressive 63% year on year increase in female participation alone. A record-high 2,849 females played the game in 2017, up from 1,744 in 2016.


The number of registered female club players increased by 21%. The league also introduced a female Under 15 squad to the innovative Queensland Academy of Sport Rugby League program.

  • 60,857: QRL registered club players in 2017
  • 4,646: Registered female club players, up 21%


Total participation in Victoria grew by 2.2% in 2017 with more than 3,800 registered rugby league participants. Most of this is attributable to a 26.8% increase in female participation, as well as an uplift of more than 158%
in the Sunraysia junior competitions. There was also significant growth of eight and 28% in both the male and female open age competitions, respectively.

Western Australia

The trend of positive growth for the women’s game continued, with an increase of more than 25% in the number of females playing the game, leading to more teams playing rugby league

South Australia

Rugby league participants in South Australia increased by 6.2% in 2017 to a total of 1052 and included an 11.6% rise in the number of male participants, the best of all the affiliated states.


Total participation in the Northern Territory grew by 4.6% to 2,540 in 2017, highlighted by a 29.8% increase in female participation. A record 458 females participated in rugby league.