Fran Goldthorpe targets another Grand Final success with Leeds Rhinos Women

AT just 18, Fran Goldthorpe has already achieved more than most rugby league players manage in a lifetime.

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 10:34 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 12:03 pm

A try scorer in the 2019 Women’s Challenge Cup final, she touched down twice when Leeds Rhinos completed the double with victory over Castleford Tigers, again, in that season’s Super League Grand Final.

Since converted from wing to centre, she has scored 20 tries in just 11 matches this term and was a nominee for the 2021 Woman of Steel award, which goes to the country’s top female player.

Goldthorp missed out to St Helens’ Jodie Cunningham in Tuesday’s ceremony but could set the record straight when she comes up against her rival again in Sunday’s Grand Final at Headingley.

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Leeds Rhinos' Fran Goldthorpe scores her second try during the 2019 Women's Super League Grand Final. Picture: PA

Goldthorp, who is from Leeds and a lifelong Rhinos fan, admitted to being “quite shocked” by her Woman of Steel nomination and not at all disappointed to lose out.

“It is a huge achievement to be nominated,” she said.

“I am only 18 and I have had a good season. I am proud of that.

“Jodie definitely deserved it, but I would rather win the Grand Final than Woman of Steel.”

Fran Goldthorpe of Leeds. Picture: Isabel Pearce/SWpix.com

Saints are unbeaten on the pitch this year, winning the Challenge Cup and League Leaders’ Shield.

They handed Leeds their only defeat at the semi-final stage of the cup and, despite Rhinos being at home, will go into this weekend’s showpiece as favourites.

But it will be their first title decider and Leeds’s third and Goldthorpe is confident Rhinos can repeat their 2019 achievement by upsetting the odds when it matters most.

She stressed: “We are very eager to not let them win the treble.

“Everyone’s on the same page, we know what we need to do and the intensity has gone up another level this week.

“We can’t wait to get out there on Sunday.”

With the Super League Shield final, between Featherstone Rovers and Huddersfield Giants, being played as a curtain-raiser, Sunday is arguably the biggest occasion in the history of the women’s game in this country.

Rhinos are expecting a bumper crowd and the Grand Final will be televised live by Sky Sports, as were the semi-finals.

The 2017 Grand Final was played at the Heworth amateur club in York and a Manchester athletics stadium hosted the following year’s.

St Helens was the venue two seasons ago and Goldthorpe said the use of Headingley is evidence of how much the women’s version of the sport is growing.

Rhinos trained there ahead of their semi-final win over York and had a tour of the stadium last week.

“It was such a good experience just to have a look around, it will be amazing to get out on the pitch,” said Goldthorpe.

“I think the turnout is going to be bigger than we have ever experienced.

“It will be amazing, getting the credit the women deserve.

“These are the games you look forward to, the Grand Finals and Challenge Cups.

“2019 was probably one of the best games I’ve ever been involved in and I can’t wait for this weekend.”

Leeds had to dig deep to beat York City Knights in the last four, having trailed 14-4 at half-time.

But Saints are used to rolling over teams, including a 58-0 semi-final drubbing of Castleford and Rhinos might be more battle-hardened.

Reflecting on the semi-final, Goldthorpe admitted: “We know if we start and play how we did in that first half, Saints will run away with it.”

But she insisted: “We have definitely had very good training sessions since then.

“We had a video review which helped a lot of the players to see what they were doing wrong and where they need to improve.

“We know what we need to do and that’s what we’ve been focussing on on Sunday. I think it will be very different when we come out on Sunday.”

Coach Lois Forsell’s half-time team talk inspired Leeds’s semi-final fightback and Goldthorpe believes the former England number nine deserves huge credit at the end of her first season in charge.

She said: “Everyone has so much respect for her, she knows the feelings and emotions everyone’s going through and she also knows she has to have tough conversations with us.

“She has great knowledge of the game and she has been a great asset to us this season.”