"I RECKON in the next five years, girls will probably out-number boys in [rugby league] teams."
That is the opinion of Panorama Platypi under 18s coach Harry Saban and while on the surface it might appear to be an overly optimistic view of the growth of female rugby league, it is hard to entirely dismiss the notion.
Five years ago there was no such thing as the Western Women's Rugby League competition in which the Platypi play.
Now there are under 13s, under 15s, under 18s and opens divisions and six outfits involved in each of those grades - the Bathurst-based Platypi, the Vipers, the Mudgee Dragons, Woodbridge, Castlereagh and Goannas.
The girls who play in those competitions can draw inspiration from an NRL Women's Premiership and that at the World Cup 9s tournament played last weekend, there was pay parity between male and female players.
"I can see it taking off, especially in the age groups from 15s to 18s and even 13s. I do know in the junior comp, from the 13s to 15s, 16s is where they [boys] start to drop off, whereas with the girls, that's where they start to pick up," Saban said.
"That's where you get the big numbers, if you look at the under 15 Platypi, I'm pretty sure they have got 26 players in that squad.
"The women now, they are playing on TV, they are playing State of Origin, they playing for Australia - it's only going to get bigger and better.
"I reckon in the next five years, girls will probably out-number boys in teams - it's just a feeling you get and you can see it coming through. I reckon 13s [Platypi] girls, you could probably get two teams out of them now if you wanted as well."
This season is Saban's first as a Platypi coach, but he has previously guided a number of junior teams from under 8s through to under 14s.
Only two or three of his current squad played in last season's inaugural Platypi campaign and the coach is working hard to help his players develop basic skills.
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But their passion for the sport is part of why Saban believes rugby league for females is not only sustainable, but has the potential for big growth.
"Working with the girls and their personalities, their self esteem is a big things I've noticed. They are a great bunch of girls, I wouldn't want any other team, they work well, they listen well and we all have a laugh," he said.
"They might have done a bit of league tag or something very similar but going straight into this comp, 13-a-side, full field, it does make a big difference and it is a big eye-opener, especially getting tackled.
"It's not an easy sport to get into, no matter your age, and the girls are doing really well. It's unbelievable the spirit they show.
"What I've noticed, even when I was training boys in the juniors, the girls cut off at under 12s but a lot of these girls are footy heads, that's all they think about.
"The passion they bring to the field, it's on par with that of the boys they play. The drive and commitment they show, I think it's actually a bit more than what the boys have, but the girls do get side tracked a little."
The drive and commitment they show, I think it's actually a bit more than what the boys have.Harry Saban
While the under 18 Platypi are yet to win a game this season, the Orange-based Vipers and Woodbridge Cup outfits they fell too boast plenty of talent within their ranks.
"The Vipers, if you have a look at their scores, every score has been in the 50s they're an exceptional team. Martin and the coaches for the Vipers are doing a great job," Saban said.
"Woodbridge Cup, those girls are really good as well. They started with 10 on the field and they were first points scored, they've got that experience there. That's one thing Woodbridge has always had, they've always had a comp for the girls going where for Platypi it's very raw, we're fresh.
"But the attack and the drive that the girls have got is great - if you have a look the first 10 minutes of both games we've played we've been dominating. But then the girls run out of puff, get a bit worn and we don't have the reserves.
"They are just going from strength to strength, they are not backing down, the girls are getting better."
This Saturday Saban's under 18s and their fellow Platypi will head to Dunedoo Sportsground to take on Castlereagh Cougars.