The start of the NRLW season has been delayed until October and will run as a stand-alone six-week competition due to ongoing complications of Sydney's COVID-19 lockdown.
The decision was announced on Friday following meetings with stakeholders this week which will see the first round of the season kick-off in NRL grand final week.
The NRLW season will then run through until November as a stand-alone competition for the first time in its four-year history.
The details of the competition structure itself are yet to be announced, including whether a finals series will be held, and if so, how many rounds.
Decisions on venues and a final draw are also yet to be confirmed.
Those decisions are likely to hinge on how the COVID-19 outbreak is handled in NSW, with the situation still too uncertain to make a final call.
"We are absolutely committed to the new six-team competition being played in 2021," said NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo.
"The worsening COVID outbreak in NSW provides additional challenges to the NRLW because most of our players also have employment and other commitments outside of rugby league,.
"We want players to have the opportunity to play NRLW without impacting their normal lives. By delaying kick-off until October it provides the best opportunity for a normal season."
There was some concern that the pausing of the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand from Friday would force Kiwi players signed with NRLW clubs to return home.
However, the NRL is confident players will uphold their commitments.
Pre-season will start at the end of August with biosecurity protocols still being finalised for players to begin training safely.
The commitment to hold the season will come as a huge relief for players and staff with the competition expanding from four to six teams, including three new clubs this season.
"We're excited to kick-off in grand final week. It's our biggest week of the year and it will be fitting that the NRLW will be an important component of the week," Abdo said.
"All eyes will be on the women's competition in October and that's a great outcome as we look to grow the competition.
"I want to thank the players, participating clubs and the RLPA for their contribution in reaching an outcome that is in the best interests of the players and the game more broadly."
Australian Associated Press