Leeds Rhinos forward Beth Lockwood says record crowd at Headingley for Betfred Women's Super League Grand Final against St Helens will be 'amazing' experience
A record crowd for Betfred Women’s Super League is expected at Emerald Headingley on Sunday when Leeds Rhinos defend their title against Challenge Cup and league leaders’ shield holders St Helens.
With thousands watching in the stands and on Sky Sports, the Grand Final is set to be the biggest event in the competition’s history and, according to Leeds prop Beth Lockwood, it will live up to the star billing.
“It is unbelievable, for the women’s game in general,” Lockwood, who played for Rhinos in their first game, against Badford Bulls in 2018, said.
“I’ve played at Headingley before, in 2018 against Castleford, but I think this will be a lot bigger.
“There’ll be a big crowd behind us and to be shown on Sky as well is amazing.”
Television coverage of women’s rugby league is growing and Lockwood added:
“Last season Sky didn’t show the semi-finals, it was just the Grand Final.
“Having this year’s semi-finals on Sky was a big step in the right direction and hopefully we’ll keep seeing the women’s game on TV.
“I think the media aspect is big for the women’s game.
“The more people see it, the more involved people get.
“If you see it on TV, sometimes you watch it just because it’s on, then you sort of get involved a bit more, maybe go and support a local team and see what it is all about.
“I think that has brought it on a lot more and I can’t see why it isn’t going to excel in other areas in years to come.”
Though Women’s Super League is an amateur competition, the long-term aim is for players to be paid.
“The thing with that is, clubs have to have the money,” Lockwood warned.
“And not just the clubs, the RFL as well.
“Rugby league as a whole is maybe struggling a little bit after Covid, but I think it is well on its way and I think, maybe in a few years’ time, they could start paying [women] players.”
Fittingly, Sunday’s showpiece sees this year’s two best teams go head to head as Saints attempt to complete the treble and an unbeaten season.
They have demolished most of their opposition this season, including a 58-0 semi-final win over Castleford Tigers.
Leeds had to fight back from 14-4 down at half-time to sneak past York City Knights, but Lockwood reckons that tough tie will stand them in good stead against the only team to beat them this year.
The former Bruntcliffe Academy pupil has been a regular in Rhinos’ side over the second half of the campaign, after returning from a spell with York while studying for a degree in sport and exercise science in the city.
Sunday will be her first Grand Final and she reflected “We have had a lot of tests this year.
“In a lot of games we’ve not had a great start and still managed to come back when at times it didn’t look like we would.
“We are a team that has dug in deep and come out on the better side.
“We have got that experience and we have got talent across the park.
“We know we can do it and I think on Sunday we have just got to go out and give it our all.
“Every single team member will be pushing for that win.”
Leeds overturned the odds against Tigers in the 2019 Grand Final, at St Helens and Lockwood stressed: “We have done it before.
“You never know, especially in rugby league. You can never judge who is going to win or what is going to happen.
“It is all about the on the day performance and who excels.
“There’s going to be big emotions involved, playing at Headingley in a Grand Final.
“In 2019 it came down to who could out-perform the others. We did that and I am 100 per cent certain we can do it again.”
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