NRLW 2023 Bootwatch – I hope you like Asics  

As I noted after NRLW Round 1 I’ve been planning to introduce as much parity as possible between my NRLM and NRLW content this season. Sadly real life got in the way last week and I had to skip a week of NRLW content, and I’d like to apologise for that.

But I’m back this week with one of the most requested NRLW analysis yet to appear on the site. That’s right, the immensely important and popular Bootwatch is now looking at the women’s game.

For some reason Sockwatch was more requested but I don’t have as much of an affinity for socks as I do boots, plus I think it would be even more of a win for low socks than the men’s game was. Maybe I’ll log the data this year and do a year on year comparison next season, but in the interests of not burning myself out I’ll stick to just boots this year.

On a side note, before we move ahead I’d like to thank Tom Canfell for having me on his Six To Go podcast talking all things Eye Test with a view on NRLM finals round one. Link to the episode is below, and it’s also available on YouTube, iTunes or where ever you get your podcasts from.

For those new to the site and didn’t check up on the results in the NRLM this season or the initial post in 2021, Bootwatch works like this. I watch every game from the previous round and record the brand or manufacturer of all 170 players who stepped on the field. I also tag their colour into three buckets – primarily white, primarily black, or primarily coloured – to get an idea of the trend of boot colours.

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This year in the NRL, white boots were in and coloured boots were out. Which I think many boomers around the country celebrated as they vehemently opposed the neon and pink boot craze of the 2010s.

Let’s get into the boot analysis then. Below is a count of the brands worn by every player in NRLW Round 8. All data is from me.

In something of a shock to myself, Non Asics branded shoes were worn by just 60 NRLW players this weekend, meaning that Asics had nearly a 2:1 margin over the combined total of all other boot manufacturers. A thrashing of epic proportions.

When you put the percentages on the chart it looks even more dominating for Asics.

Asics made up almost two thirds of boots worn in Round 8 at 65.1%. Not that I didn’t expect Asics to take top spot here, the regular eye test was enough o know that. I just wasn’t prepared for how dominant they would be.

Even more astounding to me was that Puma, not Nike were second played and the only other brand to poll in double figures at 16.6%.

Nike somehow has just 9.5% share of boots being worn in the NRLW, which is just 16 players. This amazes me when you consider that the swoosh had the second highest share of NRLM boots in 2021 at 26% and 22% in 2023. Asics is on the charge in the men’s game, moving across the 50% range to 51.5% of boots worn in 2023, which was an increase of 10%. But I didn’t expect the women’s game to be utterly dominated by them to this extent.

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Adidas has a 7.4%, only slightly behind Nike, with 12 players wearing the three stripes. Again, that is completely different from the men’s game where Nike at 22% has nearly three times as many players wearing their boots as Adidas (7.7%).

After that it’s three minor brands all worn by just a single player. New Balance was warn by Cronulla interchange player Sereana Naitokatoa. Renee Targett from the Dragons was the sole wearer of Under Armor boots. That lines up with the NRLM, where Jason Saab (New Balance) and Eliesa Katoa (Under Armor) were the only players wearing those brands.

The other outlier is Concave, who had just the one player wearing their boots in Round 8. That would be Newcastle winger Georgia Ravics, who wore a white pair of their Halo boots. For NRLM, there were 7 players wearing Concave boots last time I checked in Round 10 2023, with a few more wearing them during the season who didn’t suit up that round.

That possibly presents an opportunity for Concave to increase their presense in the NRLW. They’re clearly doing it for AFLW, with six female athletes from that code listed on their ambassador page.

Speaking of that page, it’s been over four months since I noticed this and poor Nick Meaney still doesn’t have his name spelled correctly.

If we split it into position groups, we can see how much the dominance of Asics comes from forwards.

71% of NRLW forwards wore an Asics boot, which compares to 64% of NRLM players. The big difference is in backs, where 56% of NRLW backs wear Asics, whilst just 34% of NRLM backs wore them. NRLM backs were more evenly split between Asics and Nike, who had 32% of backline players wearing their boots.

Nike does push into double figures for NRLW backs, and similar to NRLM they’re under represented among forwards.

What if we look at team trends?

There are four teams where at least three quarters of the players are wearing Asics boots – Gold Coast, Parramatta, the Sydney Roosters, and the Wests Tigers. The Tigers had nearly 90% of their players wearing Asics, with only Puma showing up via Navjada George and Tess Staines.

It’s not a pretty picture for some brands, especially Nike. There were three teams – the Titans, Tigers and Eels – who did not have a single player wearing a Nike branded football boot. It also means there was one game this weekend, the Gold Coast v Parramatta match up, that did not feature a single Nike boot in the game. Something you’d never see in the NRLM.

I’m not sure why Nike is so unpopular with female rugby league players. It may have something to do with fit or stability, but I’m not a doctor or a sport scientist so I’ll leave that for more qualified people to speak to.

It does seem rather incredible that the world’s leading footwear brand doesn’t have the same level of support between both the men’s and women’s version of the game. I had heard that for larger NRLM players that the Nike boots were generally narrower for bigger feet, but given women’s feet on average are shorter and narrower I would think that could be less of an issue.

Now we know Asics dominates NRLW players, what about boot colour?

60% of boots worn in NRLW Round 8 were white, comparable with the 68% worn by NRLM players. Coloured boots were 27% of NRLW players, and 22% of NRLM. Black boots were worn by proportionately more NRLW players, at 18% compared with just 5% for NRLM.

Is there much of a difference in boot colour by position?

Not really, with 58% of forwards and 64% of backs wearing white boots. That’s in line with the NRLM where there was a 5% difference, although it was forwards wearing more white boots and backs wearing more specific coloured boots.

I did spot a couple of NRLW player using specific “Women’s Fit” versions of Asics football boots, which for some reason are mainly available in traditional boring black colourways with coloured accents. That may account for the increase in share among female players.

And how does the colour breakdown by team look?

Again, most teams were predominately sporting white boots as you’d expected with the overall figure before. The Sydney Roosters were the only team not to have a player wear majority black boots, while the Titans and Cowboys bucked the trend by having less than half their players wearing white boots.

Now onto the advanced stats for the round. Sadly life has gotten in the way and there’s no time to produce expected points charts this week. They’ll return next week.

Tackle Rate

Ball Runner Rate

Total Run %

Involvement Rate