Are more women willing to become cross-coded?
Women's rugby union has grown thanks to increased exposure. Will rugby league experience a similar explosion in popularity?
England Women’s Rugby Union has been on the rise over the last few season. After successfully securing the Grand Slam at this year’s Six Nations and being televised for the first time, more and more females are taking up the sport. According to the RFU, more than 18,000 women and girls regularly take part in rugby and those numbers are only rising.
Rugby union is played widely across the UK and the world, but union’s slightly less publicised sibling rugby league is on a mission to recruit more female players.
The sport is incredibly male dominated, with 93% of regular players being male.
In Australia, an astounding 180,000 women and girls regularly play rugby league. However, here in the UK, there are only about 30 teams that have active female participation, and they are mostly concentrated in the North.
There could very well be an explosion in the popularity of rugby league in the South. The Wasps recently revealed they are interested in setting up a Super League team in Coventry. However, there is already an established team there.
London Skolars have announced that they will be running taster sessions for women who are interested in trying rugby league. It's geared towards females who are either making the transition from rugby union or have no experience in rugby whatsoever.
Rugby league was granted over 10 million pounds from Sport England. £7million has been allocated strictly for talent development, with plans in place to introduce more women to the sport, with hopes of creating a Women’s Super League.
The female game is slowly becoming more visible. In 2016, it was announced that Women’s Rugby World League will be played this year alongside the men’s side. Teams from Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Canada are competing against teams from the Cook Islands and New Guinea.
I spoke to Jarrod Sammut, halfback for London Broncos, and he thinks there’s definitely room for growth:
“I think over the past maybe three to five years, we've seen the female rugby league game really come on leaps and bounds and especially within, they've got the World Cup as well. There's quite some good talent about and they hit just as hard as the guys, so I think that the game for the females is looking very bright. “
The Rugby Football League announced on the 24th of March that there will be a formal launch of the Women’s Super League in the summer. Elite women’s teams will run alongside the men’s Betfred Super League. The teams that are currently operating as community clubs will be formally allied with the professional men’s sides, although they will remain amateur.
So what affect will that have on playing numbers? Will more women be inclined to join? Will women ever play professional rugby league?
Depending on the success of the sport in the Super League and the outcome of this World Cup, this could become a massive sport in the Northern Hemisphere. No matter what happens in the south of the UK, women in rugby league will definitely be something to watch.