LEEDS RHINOS chief executive Gary Hetherington believes rugby league can be a driving force behind a boom in women’s sport.
Rhinos attracted national attention with their 16-10 win over Castleford Tigers in last weekend’s Coral Women’s Challenge Cup final.
The game was played in front of a 4,000 crowd at University of Bolton Stadium and broadcast live on the BBC’s website and red button.
The women’s game has expanded rapidly over the past three years and Hetherington feels it can continue to grow.
But he insisted: “It needs to be planned and supported and there needs to be an investment.
“There’s some terrific ambassadors and role models and women’s sport generally is booming.
“I think rugby league can be very much a part of that.
“It needs support centrally and from government and in schools and it needs support from governing bodies like the RFL and all Super League and professional clubs to do their bit as well.
“I think a lot are.
“Rugby league is a leading light in that regard and doing its bit to promote and develop women’s sport.”
Hetherington described Rhinos’ women as professionals in every regard other than being paid to play.
“I think ultimately girls should aspire to be professional rugby league players and that needs to be part of a planned strategy,” he added. “Hopefully that will happen in the not too distant future, at the current rate of progress.”
Rhinos’ women’s side are in their second season and won the Challenge Cup and Super League leaders’ shield last year, as well as being Grand Final runners-up.
Hetherington paid tribute to coach Adam Cuthbertson and his assistants, including Leon Crick, Dave and Anthony Gibbons and Lois Forsell.
“He has certainly got a good track record,” he said of Cuthbertson.
“He was new to coaching and he has brought a freshness to it. Adam and all his staff have done an outstanding job. They are a well-coached and well-managed team.”
Rhinos’ interim-coach Richard Agar described the women’s win as “terrific for the club and for Cuthbo, Leon, Louis and everybody who was part of it”.
He said: “Massive congratulations to the girls.
“I am sure it was a really special day for them.”