WOMEN’S RUGBY league is riding the crest of a wave of positive feedback and Leeds Rhinos coach Adam Cuthbertson hopes that leads, sooner rather than later, to a Grand Final double-header at Old Trafford.
Rhinos retained the Challenge Cup when they beat Castleford Tigers, for the second successive year, in last weekend’s decider, played as the opening game of a triple-header with both men’s semi-finals.
More than 4,000 spectators were in the ground for the end of the women’s game which was also broadcast live on the BBC’s red button, as well as the sport’s Our League internet app.
A gripping showpiece received national publicity before and afterwards and Cuthbertson hailed the Rugby Football League for the effort they are putting into the women’s code – and urged them to take the next big step.
The women’s Super League Grand Final has been staged on the same day as the men’s for the past two years, but at a different Manchester venue.
Rhinos’ Emerald Headingley will host this year’s title decider, but Cuthbertson said: “Playing at Old Trafford, as a double-header, would be a brilliant concept.
“It would be great for the supporters.
“You do get a really high-end 80 minutes of rugby league on Grand Final day, but people are spending quite a bit of money to go along, so why not make it even more of an event?
“You can never have too much entertainment.
“I know it might come down to what the venue would want, but I think it’s a brilliant idea – it could be the difference between falling short of a sell-out and getting a sell-out.”
Last weekend’s final was the most high-profile game of club women’s rugby league ever played in this country and Cuthbertson felt the RFL did a “great job”.
He said: “I was really impressed with how professional everything was, from the moment Courtney [Hill, Leeds’ captain] and I walked into the preview press conference on the Monday until the actual day itself.
“The build-up on social media was great and that got some exposure for the women’s game and on the day it was outstanding.”
He added: “I don’t have great memories from when I played at Bolton last year [in a Cup semi-final].
“I remember the hot sheds we had to get changed in and obviously we played badly, but this time around the way our team was treated was great.
“I feel we were treated equally to any of the finals I have played in.
“It was brilliant for the game and I think whoever made that happen has done a big favour for the sport.”
Last year’s final was held at Warrington’s HJ Stadium as a double-header with the Challenge Shield, also involving two Yorkshire teams.
That attracted a meagre crowd, but Cuthbertson added: “This year it was on the BBC and the coverage was brilliant.
“I have watched it back and it looked like a brilliant product.
“It was an outstanding job by the RFL and Coral to put on an event like that and a great lesson in how combining the men’s and women’s games – especially finals – can really work.
“It proves the game can really grow if it is handled in the right manner by the right people.”