2018 NRL Participation

Grassroots rugby league participation grew more than 3.6 per cent in 2018 with 36,900 people playing rugby league for the first time.

The figures reflect the unified effort the game and its stakeholders have placed in grassroots in recent years.

Registered female participation remained the strongest growth area for the game with a 29 per cent increase on 2017 figures. The number of women playing rugby league has now more than doubled since 2015.

  • More than 100,000 participants in NSW for first time
  • 5.5% growth in NSWRL figures for the first time in five years
  • 5.4% growth for CRL
  • 1.8% Growth in Queensland 
  • 16.7% growth in Western Australia


There was great success at a grassroots level in 2018 with an increase being recorded in participation levels for the first time in five years. There are now more than 100,000 participants across the state and almost 42,000 in the Sydney metropolitan and NSWRL affiliated leagues alone. The jump in female participation was particularly impressive for the second consecutive year with an increase of 60 per cent being recorded from the 2017 season.

  • Almost 1,400 students from 99 schools across NSW competed at the 74th instalment of the NSWRL All Schools Carnival
  • More than 500 schoolgirls from across NSW converged on Greater Western Sydney for the 2018 Female State Finals Day to celebrate women’s rugby league


Female pathways have never been stronger, with the increase in local league competitions now supported by the addition of the Harvey Norman Women’s National Championships, the annual Origin match and NRL Holden Women’s Premiership. Pleasingly, female club registrations in Queensland grew by 24 per cent in 2018.

Almost 62,000 male and females registered to play club rugby league this year; and through the advent of the Player Development Framework, the Queensland Rugby League (QRL) is eager to improve retention rates among those who already play and to entice new participants to the sport.

  • 61, 963 male and female players registered to play rugby league
  • 2018 female club registrations grew by 24 per cent
  • Outback junior registrations within the Central Region have grown by 38 per cent between 2016 and 2018


An increase in senior males, new and returning players and the continual growth of female participation saw Country Rugby League record a 5.4 per cent increase in registered players in 2018; with more than 59,000
registered players representing almost 500 clubs across Regional NSW.

With one third of all nationally registered players participating in CRL competitions, the increase was spread evenly with three of six regions recording increases in male participation and all six regions recording growth in female participation – where a 28 per cent increase now sees 11,000-plus women competing in CRL competitions and accounting for 48 per cent of all nationally registered female players.


Total participation in Victoria grew by 3.3 per cent in 2018 with 3953 participants. There was growth across the majority of age groups – a 12.8 per cent rise in male players aged 13-15 and a 33 per cent rise in female players aged 5 to 9 years.


Rugby league participation in Western Australia increased by 16.7 per cent in 2018. There was positive growth across all age groups with an 11.6 per cent growth in male rates and a 43.1 per cent increase in registered
female participation.


The number of Territorians playing rugby league remained steady in 201 There was growth in the number of participants playing rugby league in Central Australia, up 7 per cent, as well as boys in the under seven age group.

The trend for growth in the women’s game continued, with an increase of more than 11.0 per cent of females playing rugby league, including a 36.6 per cent growth in the open women’s age group.