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How female pathways dominance has Bulldogs primed for immediate NRLW success

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will line up as the NRLW’s newest club in 2025, and with their female pathways teams the envy of others, they’re set to make an immediate impact at the elite level.

For those paying close attention to the female pathways, it was little surprise Canterbury was named as part of the next round of NRLW expansion.

A sustained investment over the past 18 months has seen them quite literally evolve from the doghouse to the penthouse.

In 2021 they finished with the Tarsha Gale (U19s women) wooden spoon, where they have now secured a second-straight top-two finish as they eye off consecutive grand final appearances.

Their Lisa Fiaola U17s girls have taken all before them in the inaugural season of the competition, scoring an incredible 58 points per game and twice going within a score of cracking the century.

“Right from the top down, everyone is so invested in female rugby league,” Female Football Operations Manager Lauren Milner said.

“Being able to give these girls the resources that we do, that’s how they perform, that’s how they’re successful, that’s how we can build such a great program.

“To have the support of the board and (CEO) Aaron (Warburton) to be able to do that right from the top down is exactly how we’ve created these strong pathways.”

Canterbury has scouted far and wide to bring the best female talent into the system.

Milner said satellite areas in Greater Northern NSW, the NSW North Coast, QLD and New Zealand have complemented their strong junior base.

“Being able to hold Academies in (outside) regions has really helped those girls. We’ve got an example of that in our Lisa Fiaola where we have two girls travelling down three nights a week from the Muswellbrook/Singleton area.

“We're building locally, we have a strong talent pool and we’re looking positively towards the finals.”

While their immediate focus is on producing the goods this month and bringing two titles home, Club officials have one eye on the future with a number of these talented players in their NRLW plans.

“We’ve already got depth charts in place and we have plans in place for a lot of these players,” Milner said.

“We have girls in our current teams that will step into our 2025 NRLW team and then some of the younger ones, we have big plans for them.

“It might not be 2025 but they’re going to be part of our systems, pathways and hopefully in 2026, 2027 be ready for NRLW.

“We’re building from within first and then strengthening from outside where we need to.”

In recent times the Bulldogs have seen the likes of Alexis Tauaneai, Amelisa Pasikala and Jessica Patea depart the system to take up NRLW opportunities elsewhere.

Milner hopes the lure of the chance to wear the blue and white at the elite level will keep them from taking off.

“We’ve developed all these players and had to see them go elsewhere,” she said.

“We’d never stop a player from getting an opportunity and that’s something we’re really proud of that we can develop players.

“Now to have our own NRLW licence and be able to keep those girls internally is amazing.

There’s not a girl in our pathway that wants to go elsewhere. At the beginning of the year we tell the girls to put on their jerseys with pride and every single game they’ve done that this year.

“They want to keep coming back. It’s really great that the girls want to be a part of our plans as much as we want them to be as well.”


Article originally published by News Corp Australia, credit: Sean Teuma

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Acknowledgement of Country

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs respect and honour the Darug and Eora nations, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.