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Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) has confirmed the launch of a Women’s Premiership, with automotive company Holden signing on to title sponsor the inaugural event this year.

The Women’s Premiership will launch with four teams, instead of the initially planned six, for its first season as the NRL seeks to balance a high quality competition with the demands of player workload.

The Brisbane Broncos, St George Illawarra Dragons, Sydney Roosters and New Zealand Warriors have been named as the teams that will compete, with South Sydney Rabbitohs and Cronulla Sharks missing out in the bidding process.

“The formation of a women’s Premiership is one of the most exciting developments the game has seen,” NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said. “For the first time, our best female players will have the opportunity to play in an NRL competition – on the game’s biggest stage.”

Greenberg said the NRL consulted with the national team and other senior players, adding they wanted a strong competition with the very best players in action each week. “They also wanted the teams involved to cover a wide geographical area,” he said. “We think we’ve got the balance right for our first year and I would expect more NRL clubs to join the competition in the years ahead.”

The inaugural Women’s Premiership is set to run alongside the men’s finals series, with the winner to be crowned on grand final day.

Holden’s director of communications, Anna Betts, said: “At Holden, we look for opportunities to drive change and encourage greater diversity and inclusion, both inside and outside of our organisation.

“We are focused on promoting positive role models for girls and women and the Premiership ahead is a perfect extension of our existing partnership with the NRL. We’re thrilled to be the inaugural sponsor and look forward to seeing this competition grow over the coming years.”