Leeds Rhinos make 'we'll be back' vow after Women's Super League Grand Final loss to York Valkyrie

Leeds Rhinos coach Lois Forsell and England star Keara Bennett both turned their thoughts to next year immediately after Sunday’s Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final defeat.
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Rhinos, the defending champions, were beaten 16-6 at league leaders York Valkyrie, who became the fourth different winners of the trophy in five seasons.

York were hot favourites, having gone through the league campaign unbeaten, but neither Forsell nor Bennett were happy with a competitive performance from Rhinos in front of a Grand Final record crowd of 4,547.

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It was Rhinos’ second defeat in a major final this year, following their Wembley loss to St Helens two months ago and they were third in the table, despite a series of changes to their squad.

Rhinos coach Lois Forsell at Sunday's Grand Final away to York. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.comRhinos coach Lois Forsell at Sunday's Grand Final away to York. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com
Rhinos coach Lois Forsell at Sunday's Grand Final away to York. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com

“I think the girls have done well, but we could have done better,” Forsell insisted of a turbulent campaign.

“We didn’t, it wasn’t our day, but we will work hard in pre-season and look ahead to next year and make sure we are not in this position next time.”

Rhinos captain Courtney Winfield-Hill retired at the end of last season and they lost Georgia Roche, Georgia Hale and Fran Goldthorp to Australia's NRL Women’s competition early in the year.

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Eighteen-year-old Caitlin Casey unexpectedly spent the season as Rhinos’ first-choice half-back and is a Super League young player of the year nominee. Her development is encouraging for the future and Forsell said: “It’s not just Caitlin, there’s people like Bella Sykes and Ruby Enright to name just two.

Two Rhinos fans among the record 4,547 crowd at the Women's Super League Grand Final. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.Two Rhinos fans among the record 4,547 crowd at the Women's Super League Grand Final. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.
Two Rhinos fans among the record 4,547 crowd at the Women's Super League Grand Final. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.

“We have got a lot of young players and a lot who are maybe a bit more mature, but are in their first season of Super League. There’s a lot more to come from us as a team, but that doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing today.”

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Of plans for 2024, Forsell pledged: “Every team will be looking to recruit. We have got a great foundation and what we did this year will put us in good stead, but it is not Leeds’ way to be happy with coming second.

“I don’t think I am being harsh - I am proud of the girls and their efforts, but we can and will be smarter.”

York are the new Women's Super League champions. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.York are the new Women's Super League champions. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.
York are the new Women's Super League champions. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.
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Reflecting on the way Rhinos played against York, Forsell added: “It’s disappointing - we did too many things you can’t do in a Grand Final.

“We are disappointed in the performance. We made some errors; not turning the ball over on our terms and not taking our chances when they came - they are things that mean you don’t get a win in a Grand Final, so they hurt us.”

Bennett, the Leeds number nine, had a similar view. She stressed: “We have just started - it’s only the last four games we’ve really started to gel.

“This hurts, but it is exciting what next season and the season after are going to bring. I am already thinking about what I can do better next year.

“It has been a tough year for me, but it makes me want to be the best player I can be. It didn’t go our way today, but I know I put 100 per cent in and that’s all you can ask for.”

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