NRLW player movement inevitable when everyone is a free agent

There's just over a month until pre-season starts in the National Women's Rugby League Premiership.

With four new teams in 2023, the Canberra Raiders, North Queensland Cowboys, Wests Tigers and Cronulla Sharks, there's plenty of work to do but at the moment clubs are focused on securing their playing rosters.

Four new teams searching for players has had a big impact on the status quo with plenty of players making the decision to switch teams. Despite the infancy of the competition, some players have changed clubs three times already, which can be hard for fans who grow attached to players and get used to seeing them wearing their club colours.

Kennedy Cherrington is one player who has bucked the trend and decided to remain with her current club, signing with the Parramatta Eels for the next three seasons.

"I've always felt like Parramatta is home to me," said Cherrington.

"Pulling on that inaugural jersey was something that is a core memory for me and re-signing was a no brainer.

"I was shocked they offered the three years, but I have a great relationship with the club and the contract they offered spoke volumes about how much they love having me around.

"It also means I can pay tribute to my uncle who has passed away; he was a massive Eels fan so it hits close to home. I want to make my family proud and I want to represent Parramatta."

Whilst Cherrington has decided to stay at her current club she isn't surprised about the level of player movement.

Until now, NRLW players have been on season-to-season contracts. That means that leading into this NRLW season every single player was a free agent. Could you imagine if every player in the NRL came off contract at the same time and the situation it would create?

"I'm upset that some of the Eels players have left, but it felt inevitable," said Cherrington.

"The expansion is awesome for our competition, but we've got fans who have backed us from the start and are confused about why there is so much player movement.

"We love the passion from the fans, but for this year we all need to take a deep breath because it will settle down."

For Cherrington, despite the ongoing challenges associated with getting the Collective Bargaining Agreement finalised in the NRL and the NRLW, there is plenty of positives associated with the proposed terms of the Agreement.

One of those is the increased financial security that signing a multi-year agreement brings.

No longer will players live in fear of an injury in the off-season or whilst representing their country derailing their hopes to sign a contract. These multi-year agreements are important and another reason players are shopping around.

In understanding the player movement, for Cherrington it's important to recognise the fundamental differences between the men's game and the women's game.

Despite a substantial pay increase proposed under the new CBA, the female players are not currently full time-professional players. Many are juggling families, full time work or study.

This means that there are many reasons why a player might make a decision to leave a team; it isn't necessarily a reflection on the club or the structures and processes it has in place. Additionally, when footy isn't your full-time job, there are other considerations that a player might place more emphasis on.

"We are creating history as we go and the men have had much longer to get to the point they are at," said Cherrington.

"There is demand for certain positions, other players are making a decision to play closer to home or have made a decision to play with their mates.

"There is more opportunity now, which is something that needs to be celebrated."

During this signing frenzy, there are some Parramatta fans feeling mildly nervous, given some of the key departures from the team's NRLW side including inaugural captain Simaima Taufa, Rikeya Horne, Gayle Broughton and Tess Staines.

But Cherrington assures me more good news is around the corner.

"There should be a few exciting ones coming up," said Cherrington.

That's when I say goodbye, hang up the phone and refrain from begging Cherrington to tell me who.