New Lambton will join the Herald Women’s Premier League in 2018 as the region’s top-flight competition returns to eight teams.
The WPL started with six teams in 2009 and grew to eight teams in 2015.
But Valentine Phoenix withdrew from the competition at the end of that season and it has been a seven-team league with a bye round for the past two years.
Northern NSW Football chief executive officer David Eland said the Eagles were one of the strongest clubs in the state and deserved their place in the WPL.
Age groups will also change in 2018 and will be 14s, 17s and 20s with five over-age players instead of 14s, 16s and 18s.
“We are getting back to eight teams, which is important. I think having only seven teams and a bye has been a bit limiting, so expanding to the eighth team is fantastic,” Eland said.
“They’re a huge club and I’ve got no doubt they’ve got the capacity to fill the grades. They’ll probably take a while to settle into the WPL, particularly into first grade.
“The other big change is we are changing the ages around a little bit, which we’ve done in consultation with the clubs.
“It will make it a bit easier for the clubs to form their sides. I think that will really add to next year having the eighth club in and we are continuing to work with all the clubs towards that NPL [National Premier League] status in 2021.”
Eland described this year’s grand final, won by Merewether with a stunning fightback at Jack McLaughlan Oval on August 20, as “an absolutely fantastic game”.
“I think year on year the status of the grand final has built and this year is no exception,” Eland said after United’s 4-3 win over defending champions Warners Bay.
“It’s fantastic that they can come and play at Edgeworth, it’s one of the better venues, probably second only to Magic Park.
“The other pleasing thing about the WPL is how the clubs are really developing now and that’s why we are now really focused on transitioning to be a division of the NPL in a few years’ time.”
Eland was also excited for the federation to be hosting the inaugural NNSWF Women’s State Cup at Speers Point from September 22 to 24.
“We’re really looking forward to that weekend. It will be another great opportunity to showcase women’s football,” he said.
I think year on year the status of the grand final has built and this year is no exception.David Eland