Image Credit: [University of Leeds Rugby League]
The University of Leeds help lead the way in Women’s Rugby League, becoming only the second University in the UK to establish a women’s team.
The University of Leeds is the birthplace of student rugby league and home to the oldest-running student men’s rugby league club in the country (est. 1967). As of September 2018, UOL is now home to the newest student Women’s Rugby League team in the UK!
In contrast to more than 70 men’s student rugby league teams that have formed since 1967, the UOL women’s side is only the second student team of its kind. They have followed in the footsteps of the University of Liverpool, whose efforts to keep their club going and promote the women’s game have been tremendous. Finally, almost 52 years after the men, the University of Leeds is now a proud home to a women’s rugby league side.
This follows Leeds Rhinos’ announcement last year, revealing that they would be adding a women’s team, who now play their home matches at the University’s Weetwood playing fields. According to Gary Hetherington, Chief Executive of Leeds Rhinos, at the time of creating the female side, 93% of Rugby League players were male.
The reasons for creating a women’s under 19s side was partly due to the rule that, from the age of 16, girls and boys are separated when playing many sports. Sadly, this is a regular occurance in sport, with this week seeing a thirteen-year-old girl in Cwmbran, Wales, being called a “lesbian” for playing football. Much more has to be done in order to achieve equality in sport, whether that be at amateur or professional level. Leeds Uni and its Women’s Rugby League team are thus paving an important step towards equality.
Sunday October 21st saw the beginning of the Women’s Rugby League Association (WRLA) Winter League, starting a brand new season for the Division 1 sides at Weetwood Sports Park. It was an especially significant day as we saw the debut of the University of Leeds Women’s Rugby League side, formed just three weeks earlier. Most of the team had never picked up a rugby ball before and yet here they were, donning fresh boots and Leeds Uni colours, ready to give it their all. Their opposition, Dearne Valley Bulldogs Ladies, looked strong having trained for a year prior to joining the league.
Dearne Valley showed their power in the first half, with the score line reaching 22-0. However, Leeds Uni defended well, with standout players including Codie Higney (POM), Candice Brennan and Emily Day.In the second half, there were a number of ball-handling errors on both sides as both teams tired. Down by three players after injuries, Leeds lacked the numbers to stop Dearne Valley scoring tries and the score line climbed dramatically as the second half went on.
Leeds Uni kept morale up with the help of their coaches and showed fierce determination whenever they had the opportunity to attack. On the verge of being nilled in their first game, Leeds had the ball in the final minutes of the game. Playing to their strengths, they used speed and sheer determination, which led to their first try as a team, scored by POM Codie Higney.
The final whistle shortly followed, leaving the score at 48-4. This was a huge win for Dearne Valley and a great starting game for Leeds Uni, who will no doubt have developed considerably by the time they play Dearne Valley again later in the year.