Danika Priim hails influence of Leeds Rhinos Women’s head coach Lois Forsell
VETERAN FORWARD Danika Priim has paid tribute to Lois Forsell, the coach who has guided Leeds Rhinos to the Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final at her first attempt.
The former England number nine is in her first full season as team boss having taken over from Adam Cuthbertson at the end of 2019 when a knee injury forced her to hang up her boots.
Last year’s campaign was cancelled, just a week before it was due to kick-off, because of Covid, but Leeds finished second in the table this time and will defend their title against league leaders St Helens at Emerald Headingley on Sunday.
“I have done my rugby league career pretty much with Lois,” Priim – who was a founder player for Rhinos in 2018 – said.
“If I wasn’t playing with her, I was playing against her and I have played internationally with her as well.
“I have got a lot of time and respect for Lois as a player and now as a coach.
“She can see things when the game’s going on that only a skilled nine or a half could see.
“She can really read the game and pass on her knowledge to younger girls.”
Priim hailed Forsell for inspiring Rhinos’ semi-final win over York City Knights.
She added: “She has been fantastic.
“She knows how to talk to us, being a woman and she knows how we respond to things best.
“In the semi-final, we went in 14-4 down and her half-time talk was strong, but super motivational.
“She has really got that double edge where she knows the game and knows the girls, so she’s great.”
Priim was a Grand Final winner with Bradford Bulls in 2017 and Rhinos two years later.
Though they are the defending champions, Rhinos will be underdogs against a St Helens team who have already won the Challenge Cup and league leaders’ shield and are unbeaten all season.
“I think it’s a really good place for us to be,” Priim said.
“We are currently the holders of the trophy, but not going in as favourites is quite nice.
“It is all pressure on Saints to get the win.
“We have prepared really well and we are a really capable bunch of girls and we know on the day, if we play the game our way, we are going to have some success.
“It is going to be a really tight game, a wicked game to watch and to have it televised and, hopefully, played in front of a really big crowd is great.”
This year is the first time Headingley has hosted the women’s Grand Final.
Priim said: “It is awesome we have managed to get it there.
“It is the best stadium in the world in my opinion and to have it there, on Sky, with the Shield game beforehand and all the build-up, it proves where the women’s game is going.
“Hopefully the crowd will come in. It is great the RFL have put offers on for season ticket holders and whether you support Leeds or Saints or just rugby itself, it is going to be a great afternoon of rugby and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Given all this year’s disruption with Covid and injuries, which have robbed Rhinos of some of their most experienced players, retaining the trophy would be an outstanding achievement.
“I don’t think I can put it into words,” Priim said of how much a win on Sunday would mean to her.
“To win a Grand Final at Headingley would be the pinnacle of my career, I think. Two of my favourite moments playing rugby have been walking out at Headingley and wearing the Leeds Rhinos jersey.
“To do that and lift a trophy would be the epitome of everything I have worked for in rugby league.
“It is so exciting. To play at Headingley in mid-season is fantastic, to play there in a Grand Final is what dreams are made of.
“I know all the girls are super excited to run out there and hopefully do a job.”
Priim is now 37 and Sunday could potentially be her final game.
“It is up for discussion,” she said of whether she will play on next year.
“I am not quite where I want to be fitness-wise, game-fitness-wise.
“I know if I was a few kilos lighter I’d definitely be moving forward and pushing on for another season.
“It depends how well my off-season goes and how hard I work to get a bit fitter – and commitments; we are not a professional sport and my commitments with work have been quite heavy so there’s been lots of decisions I’ve had to make in terms of what I put first.
“That has been hard. I am part of a team and you can’t let a team down.
“No decision has been made yet, I will see if I can push my body through one more, but I am not sure yet.”
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