The growth of Women’s Rugby League in England

With the game of women’s rugby league in England growing rapidly and the season beginning on 7 April, fans can again support their favourite team.

Last Word On Rugby decided to take a look at how it started and the progress made.

Kicking off Women’s Rugby League in England

Bradford Bulls’ women helped to get the game off to a start, when they became the first women’s team to link with a professional men’s team. The first women’s rugby league season was in 2017 with Featherstone Rovers, York City Knights, and Wigan Warriors also all participating.

Bradford became the first Grand Final winners, beating Featherstone 36-6 in the showpiece event.

The same teams contested the maiden Challenge Cup, with the Bulls again claiming the silverware, winning 50-16.

Growth of the women’s game

After a successful season for the women’s game, more clubs became engaged and entered teams for 2018. These included Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors and St Helens who competed as Thatto Heath Women in the previous campaign.

Wakefield Trinty women also joined them after previously competing in the Championship.

Leeds won the Challenge Cup in their first season beating Castleford 20-14 and ended the regular season as league leaders. They were denied a treble though when Wigan triumphed in the Grand Final, 18-16.

To further grow the women’s game, the first Woman of Steel award was presented. Castleford loose forward Georgia Roche, only 17 years old, was the maiden winner after a superb campaign when she scored 11 tries. She also represented England, and her county in State of Origin games that proved age is no barrier for Women’s Rugby League in England.

Looking ahead to the 2019 Super League season

This coming season will feature Bradford, Leeds, Wigan, St Helens, Castleford, Featherstone, York and Wakefield. The latter will be in their maiden top-flight campaign after playing in the Championship in 2018.

The season will be contested over 14 rounds before the semi-finals and Grand Final in October.

The opening round of the season features eye-catching derby games, including Leeds v Wakefield, and Wigan v St Helens.

Bradford’s opener against Featherstone will be part of a doubleheader fixture. Their men’s Super League side facing Dewsbury afterwards, in a well-conceived scheduling move by the league.

The showpiece 2019 event – the Championship final – will be held at Headingley, the home of Leeds Rhinos men’s team.

Future Plans for Women’s Rugby League in England

In a nod to the use of technology to reach fans, Leeds Rhinos are to stream all their women’s games for the upcoming season via a YouTube channel.

Two teams in the Championship for 2019, Warrington and Huddersfield; who compete in the men’s Super League, are fielding women’s side for the first time.

The ultimate goal for all competing players is test match rugby – representing your country. And so, leading into that objective, the Women’s Rugby League World Cup schedule has been announced for 2021. With matches played across England, alongside the men, and for time this season, wheelchair rugby league.

The Cup final in 2021 will be held at Old Trafford, as part of a doubleheader with the men’s final.

All these steps are going to underline  Women’s Rugby League in England. Rugby league across the globe, with the speed and action of the 13-woman code offering players here and in Australia, New Zealand and as far as Europe and North America, another step in the growth of the game. And to celebrate women in sport.

“Main photo credit – Super League graphic”

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