Super W edges closer to player payday

Ariana Kaiwai in action during the Waratahs' Super W match against the Queensland Reds. Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Australia's female national rugby union stars will be paid for the first time this year and Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle believes it is only a matter of time before Super W follows suit.

The Super W season kicks off this weekend as the competition enters its third campaign and the XV-woman game takes another step towards professionalism.

While Rugby Australia refused to confirm how much the Wallaroos would be paid per game, Castle said it was a step in the right direction ahead of the women's World Cup in New Zealand next year.

"With our women's sevens we have equal pay and full-time integrated professional athletes who play on a world circuit," Castle said.

"In the women's XV game the first thing we need to do is to give them the highest level of coaching, enough support around athletic performance and allow them to balance the requirements of being professional athletes while still working.

"Over time we'll grow towards paying players to play Super W. But we have to make sure we crawl, then walk, then jog, then sprint.

"The challenge for the class of 2020 is to back it up and to go one better and grow the standard of competition even more."

Castle said the creation of Super W had led to "double-digit growth" in female rugby participation over the past two years and she expects that number to rise.

Brumbies captain and Wallaroos lock Michaela Leonard called for a full home-and-away season for the Super W tournament, which currently only runs for six weeks.

"Four rounds building into five rounds in the second season was great and I think it would be an even better opportunity to have that full home and away," Leonard said.

"Just to let us play more games and develop everyone's skill level and have a bigger season leading into representative honours."

Super W kicks off when the Melbourne Rebels host the NSW Waratahs on Friday, before the Brumbies take on Rugby WA on Saturday. Queensland has the bye.