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The Women's Sports Alliance

PRESENTS...

Caitlin Beevers - World Cup can Transform Women’s Rugby League

Rugby players often look at their football playing counterparts with a sizeable degree of envy – given the profile and finances in the ‘beautiful game’ – but there is also respect.



Particularly when it comes to reflecting on recent successes and England’s historic European Championship victory this summer at Wembley has provided the nation’s rugby league team with even greater motivation ahead of their World Cup, at home, next month.


“The Lionesses definitely built a foundation for women's sport and I think they're fantastic athletes,” Caitlin Beevers tells the Women’s Sports Alliance (WSA).


“To be able to do what they did, especially on home soil, they probably proved a lot of people wrong and if we can be anything like that, then we'll be very happy.”


The Leeds Rhinos star will head to the World Cup fresh from a “fantastic” domestic season which culminated in two crucial match-winning tries and a player of the match performance in the Grand Final.


It was the latest in a series of successes for the 21-year-old, which includes two Super League and two Challenge Cup titles.

It has been a sporting career of triumph, but also trials.

Unlike the nation’s best female rugby union players there are no professional contracts in domestic rugby league and as a result most are juggling full or part-time work in addition to their training, match and other sporting commitments.

The 21-year-old herself works as an administrator in a paint factory.


She also officiates and in 2018 became the first woman to referee a rugby league game at Wembley Stadium when she oversaw a Boys National Schools Final ahead of the Challenge Cup final.


Caitlin admits no women in rugby league expect an “easy ride” and experiences in the sport at a young age often prepare them well for the “tough” journey ahead.


“Growing up I had to play for the boys team from six to 11 or 12 and then had a break as there were no local girls team in my area and it was 16 before I came back,” she recalls.


“We’re now working full-time, rushing to training and giving up our weekends for something we love and playing is all we want to do so ‘professional’ status would make a huge difference.”


Caitlin is keen to praise her employer for the flexibility they have shown which has enabled her to “become the best player” she can and also pursue her international ambitions.


While true professionalism and full-time centralised contracts may be “a couple of years off” she believes the sport is now in a position to capitalise on a strong World Cup showing.


“Things are going in the right direction,” she insists.


“I went to a tournament the other day, and there were under nine’s and under 11’s girls’ teams and I’m absolutely in awe of the opportunities they have with the academies too.


“We're starting to get the same treatment in terms of using the same training facilities that men are getting and for example, the Challenge Cup finals next year being played at Wembley, that's something that I thought would never come in, in this generation.


It is a “fantastic foundation” insists the England international, who is keen to keep pushing the sport and in particular over the next month, the national team, forward.



She heads into the World Cup unsure what position she will be playing in though after being moved from her traditional positions on the wing or as a full back to centre this season.


“The main reason I was put in that centre was because I was out practically all the preseason with a torn hamstring, so to minimize the amount of meters that I made, Lois (Forsell, Leeds Rhinos’ head coach) made the suggestion,” she states.


“I was like, ‘if you think that’s the best way to win a Challenge Cup final then I’ll play anywhere, try me at prop if you think it’ll help’ but she told me not to be so stupid!


“At first I was a bit wary of how it could jeopardize my position in the World Cup with me going from being trained at fullback to being predominantly centre, but for me it’s a team first mentality and I’ve enjoyed my time at centre.”


She will do whatever it takes to help England win, is essentially her message and knows this year’s event presents a huge opportunity to promote the sport.


“League isn’t a massive sport over in England and we’re already fighting that battle, but having the World Cup here is fantastic,” continues Caitlin.


“In terms of building the publicity and growing social media present it will be great and hopefully being in the limelight will mean little girls will be able to look up to us and say that's where they want to be. That would be fantastic.”



The women’s events at this year’s Rugby League World Cup run from 1-19 November across the UK.


England begin their campaign in Group A against World Cup debutants Brazil (1 Nov), before taking on Canada (5 Nov) and Papua New Guinea (9 Nov).


For more information, visit the tournament website.

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