Words: Angela Powers
Singing the Blues
There was plenty of fevered anticipation for the first Women’s State of Origin clash down under, and rightly so. The Jillaroos are not World Champions for nothing; Australia boasts some of the most skilful players on the planet. So it follows that pitting the best v the best is bound to be something special.
And the game didn’t disappoint. It was an edge of the seat encounter decided in the dying minutes as all great Origin tests are. Isabelle Kelly will go down in history as the woman who scored the winning touchdown for New South Wales in the first ever contest, the final score 16-10.
And with a crowd of nearly 7,000 it has to be lauded as a great success. Well done the Blues, hard luck Maroons. Oh, for a ring-side seat at the rematch.
Origin of an idea
Inevitably, the conversation turns to whether we should put on our own version over here. Well, the inevitable answer is that we already have it. Back in January, Featherstone Rovers was the venue for the County of Origin game between Lancashire and Yorkshire, the women’s showpiece taking place after the Barla U18s finals.
Lancashire came out on top, beating Yorkshire 10-4, with a lot of the players lining up for the clash – Becky Greenfield, Tara Jones, Kelsey Gentles, Cailtlin Beevers to name but four – now familiar names in the women’s Super league.
War of the Roses revamp?
The County of Origin match comes under the BARLA banner and the amateur rugby league organisation has always been a great champion of the women’s game. Hundreds of women and girls turn out every week to play for community clubs and that’s something we should be proud of. Many of the up and coming stars of the women’s Super League started out at clubs like East Leeds, Wigan St Pats and Stanningley; such clubs are the bedrock of the women’s game and without them the Super League comp wouldn’t have been able to begin.
Watching the women in Australia make headlines for their State of Origin debut, it’s natural that we in the UK would want to emulate it.
But in my opinion, it would be a mistake to launch into a copycat comp too soon. Super League has notched up some terrific firsts already this season (for example, the opening game of the competition between Bradford and Leeds was the headline event at Odsal, the men’s game marketed as the curtain raiser) and its profile has been raised dramatically. It’s early days though and we need to continue to nurture and support the clubs competing now before we start turning attentions to marketing our own look-a-like State of Origin.
We’ll get there eventually, but just one beautiful step at a time.
There’s another first for Wigan Warriors tonight (Friday) as the U19s play their first ever game. They are off to Huddersfield to compete against the Giants’ girls at the Orchard FM Community Sports Park (HD3 3XF), kick off at 19:45.
There will be a familiar face in their physio room too – first team player Hannah Goodburn goes from playing to support staff for the game.
Giants’ second stride
It’ll be the Giants second game, having got their debut win v the women’s Royal Navy team 58-16 last week.
The Giants have Super League ambitions of their own and their off the field work in encouraging more girls to get involved is, well, encouraging.
They are offering a a Girls England Talent Pathway programme for girls aged 11 to 16, with three more dates available for anyone who wants to try it out.
We’re on the telly
We’ve been delighted with the response to our first Women in League programme, which we published this month on You Tube. It marked the TV debut for our very own Zoe Shackleton, a young news and sports reporter who is keen to get some broadcast experience too.
Her RL exits to support, celebrate and empower women and girls through the great sport of rugby league and we are proud to have been able to give her her first chance in front of the cameras.
Watch this space for the next episode!
Six of the best
Last weekend was significant in the Super league for a couple of reason, but perhaps the most interesting one was that it meant that all clubs had played 6 fixtures.
For the first time we could get a good glimpse at the fortunes of each club from a level playing field.
The top four is pretty tight, with the Rhinos at the top, on 10 points. Wigan and Saints are neck and neck on 9 points each, with Castleford in fourth. Bradford and Featherstone, last year’s cup and Grand finalists are a bit off the pace with 4 and two points respectively, with York still to get a win.
That top four though – is anyone brave enough to call an outright winners yet. Not me!
The difference is clear
Leeds’ 80-0 victory over York amplified the difference between the top and the bottom of the league (check out the table here).
Pictures by Garry Beevers
It wasn’t the only result that neatly summed up the state of the contest, with Castleford and St Helens drawing 14 all. It was another red letter day for the Super League with the women’s game following on from the men’s 24 all draw against Hull KR.
None of the sides was able to claim the league points but on this occasion – two tense sporting contests with honours shared – we really can say rugby league was the winner.
Leeds v Bradford – revenge?
The big game of this weekend has to be this Sunday when Leeds host Bradford at Weetwood Sports Park. The season kicked off with a head to head between these too, and Bradford will no doubt have revenge on their mind after coming away losers in that round one clash.
The Bulls have another motive though. If they want to defend their title, they simply have to start picking up league points against the teams above them, starting with their fiercest rivals. That’s Sunday’s entertainment sorted.
Next season might just see another Yorkshire side vying for the title. Wakefield have gone unbeaten in the Championship so far this season, although their victory over Oulton Raidettes last weekend was a tad tighter than their previous wins so far.
It’s evidence that even the strongest sides can have an off day and are beatable. It just might take something special to knock them off their perch. Can Hull FC pull it off this weekend? Wherever you get your fix of rugby league this weekend, enjoy it.