‘We want to emulate them’: The lionesses inspire England’s rugby team | Women’s Rugby League

aAll sports are desperately planning to capitalize on the lionesses’ success in their Euro 2022 victory, but when you delve into the details, perhaps there is nothing better than rugby league – except for football, of course -.

After all, this is a sport that has made remarkable strides in recent years when it comes to the growth of its women’s game. The establishment of the Women’s Premier League in 2017 enabled the best rugby league players to move into the spotlight through affiliations with clubs such as Leeds and St Helens. Crowds are on the rise, doubles matches are often broadcast alongside men’s Premier League matches, and there is boundless optimism about the future of the domestic game.

But the real key to Women’s Rugby League comes in the form of this year’s World Cup, which is being staged in England like the European Women’s Championship: a chance to replicate what the Lionesses achieved by winning a major tournament on home soil. “We want to emulate exactly what they did, win the championship and do it the way they did it, and entertain people,” says Leeds and England defender Courtney Winfield Hill. “Women’s Rugby League has a tremendous opportunity to build on lionesses.”

Australian-born Winfield Hill has been facing a boom in women’s sports before. She was part of the inaugural Women’s Big Bash cricket tournament before switching to rugby league, moving to England and joining the Leeds when WSL was launched. World Cup success shown on terrestrial television could catapult Winfield Hill, Emily Rodge and Judy Cunningham into the mainstream.

“When the girls who came before me were playing in the fields without anyone watching, that was probably the furthest thing from their minds,” Winfield Hill says. “But it’s up to us to capitalize on what happened with the lionesses. They made people stand up and talk about women’s sports. It probably helped put other sports like ours into the conversation. I’m not really a fan of football but even I was noticing. It made everyone think of a sport woman “.

Courtney Winfield Hill of England (right) during the match against France. “Women’s Rugby League has a tremendous opportunity to build on lionesses,” she says. Photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com/Shutterstock

World Cup organizers are waiting to see if there’s a spike in ticket sales this fall, but early indications are good. England’s opening group match against Brazil on 1 November is on track to break the UK’s record for an independent women’s rugby match in either code, while several Premier League clubs have reported interest from their fans for the remainder of the Women’s Football League season.

Rugby League Soccer is especially considering how to build on the success of the Lionesses, too. She launched InspiredBy, which aims in part to get more girls and women involved in rugby league and build on the success of the Lionesses and the Commonwealth Games. After the World Cup ended, the game planned a series of initiatives to capitalize on any success as well.

This includes England players providing sessions in the local communities to allow the young girls we hope will inspire the World Cup to meet their role models and create additional buzz around the sport. But the real goal of the women’s game is to be in a position to go full-time players, a dream that could come a step closer to becoming a reality with the success of the World Cup back home.

“I think we’re still a long way from that,” Winfield Hill says. “There is some great work going on on the ground at the local level, and at the international level we are very strong and able to compete with anyone. But consistency across the board in the WSL is not quite there between the best and least resourced club. What we really need is More central funding from our sporting bodies.

“I’ve seen it work successfully with cricket in Australia. The more bodies and powers you invest in a game, the closer you get to full-time players. We need more of that in rugby league, but hopefully the Lionesses have shown that women’s sport The world is worth investing in. It is now up to us as players to follow that into the World Cup. Winning will be a huge silver bullet for our growth.”

Lionesses have clearly shown how women’s sport can reach heights that no one felt possible as recently as a few years ago. Rugby league faces far more hurdles to spell out when it comes to funding and mainstream interest, but it is now clear that success on home soil for the England team is changing the landscape for a sport like no other. The platform is laid out: it is now up to the women’s game to present it.

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