Leeds Rhinos’ Courtney Hill rules out return to Australia ... this year

Courtney Hill. PIC: Richard Sellers/PA WireCourtney Hill. PIC: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
Courtney Hill. PIC: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
WOMAN OF Steel Courtney Hill has committed herself to Leeds Rhinos for 2020, but admits she’d love to play in her native Australia if the opportunity arose.

Hill captained Rhinos to the Coral Challenge Cup and Betfred Super League double last year as well as receiving the top individual honour in the women’s game.

A former leading cricketer in Australia, Hill began playing rugby league only two years ago, ahead of Rhinos’ first season.

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Her sensational form during 2020, which included a player of-the-match performance in Leeds’ Grand Final win over Castleford Tigers, attracted attention Down Under and led to her being linked with a move to the NRL Women’s Premiership.

Women’s England Rugby League player Charlotte Booth. PIC: Shilton Photo FilmWomen’s England Rugby League player Charlotte Booth. PIC: Shilton Photo Film
Women’s England Rugby League player Charlotte Booth. PIC: Shilton Photo Film

But, speaking at the Rugby Football League’s season launch in Huddersfield Town Hall, the 33-year-old half-back said that is not on the cards, yet.

“Right now I am here in Leeds and I am certainly playing for the Rhinos this season,” she confirmed. “I am excited for the season ahead; it will be a good one.”

But Hill, who is now working for Rhinos’ commercial department as well as in schools with the club’s foundation, admitted: “I think if an opportunity presents itself I will certainly be taking it with both hands.”

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She added: “I will go back to Aus’ eventually, I hope, to live. It won’t just be for sport, but any opportunity to go home to Aus’ I will take with both hands – it is a bit cold over here for my liking!

Lois Forsell. PIC: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.comLois Forsell. PIC: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Lois Forsell. PIC: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

“If opportunities present I am a bit of a yes girl, if I can jump in the deep end and swim, why not?”

Rhinos’ women began pre-season training last week and their Super League defence will begin at home to Bradford Bulls on Sunday, March 29.

“It was really lovely to get back in among the girls again,” Hill said.

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“The coaches described it as giving us a few lung-openers. We found ourselves at Roundhay Park [on Sunday] running vertically up the hills.

“Experiences like that bring you closer as a team and give you things to reminisce on and laugh about for the rest of the year.

“It was good and there’s plenty more of that to come on over the next few weeks.”

Rhinos will go into the new season without England stars Lois Forsell, who has retired because of a knee injury, and Charlotte Booth following her move to Australia to play for Division One side West Brisbane Panthers.

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That will make Booth the first English woman to play professional rugby league, but Hill is confident the squad remains strong enough to challenge for trophies.

She said: “It’s very healthy. I am excited for Char and it’s great for her to go and broaden her horizons and develop herself as a person.

“At the end of the day, we know from every aspect of life nobody’s irreplaceable. We saw it last year, the young girls coming through held their own and did a job for us. We have got a lot of trust and faith in that pathway system we’ve got at Leeds and promoting those girls through.

“Hopefully there will be opportunities for that this season.”