CHALLENGE CUP winner Charlotte Booth is confident Leeds Rhinos will handle the pressure in today’s derby final against Castleford Tigers.
Booth is aiming to get her hands on the trophy for a second successive year after being a member of Bradford Bulls’ triumphant 2017 side.
She knows what it takes to win the most prestigious knockout competition in the women’s game, but – though Rhinos will start as clear favourites – Booth insists Castleford pose a real threat.
“On paper we are the favourites, but we are new to Super League and Cas have had a few years building,” Booth warned ahead of the showpiece at Warrington’s HJ Stadium (3pm).
“We’re just happy to be there; it’s our first time in Super League and first time in a cup final and we’re happy to be part of it and do what we can do.
“We’ve put a lot of hard work in this year and hopefully that will be rewarded.”
Rhinos have lost only one of their 11 competitive games this term, but have gone almost a month without a game.
“Training has been intense, as always,” Booth reported.
“As far as not getting the minutes in, ideally we would have carried on playing, but a break always does you a bit of good.
“We’ve been training really hard and it’s as intense, if not more than, a game.
“When you’re going into a game after training with Adam [Cuthbertson, Rhinos’ coach] it is almost a bit more relaxed.”
Booth, a winger or full-back, is one of Rhinos’ leading lights.
She played for England in the 2017 World Cup in Australia and won the student sport individual honour at this year’s Leeds Sports Awards.
Booth was also the first female rugby league player to be supported by the Sport England-funded Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS).
Her involvement in rugby league began with Guiseley Storm before she joined Bradford and then moved to Leeds when the club was formed last autumn.
Even so, today will be one of the biggest afternoons of her playing career.
Booth said: “We’re really looking forward to it.
“When I won it with Bradford last year it was special, it was the first silverware I’d won. The Challenge Cup was definitely mentioned when we set our pre-season targets.
“Everyone wants to be part of it, the backroom staff, the coaches, the physios and the players.
“The girls, especially the younger ones, are looking forward to getting some experience by playing at Warrington. They want to get out there and see how they cope with playing at a venue like that.”
Halliwell-Jones Stadium was a controversial choice for a finals day featuring four West Yorkshire teams. Leeds side Stanningley play Bradford in the Shield final, kicking off two hours before the main game, but Booth is relishing the opportunity to play on a big stage.
She starred for Bradford when they won the Challenge Cup last year in a final hosted by the Heworth community club.
“It was really nice having it in York,” she recalled.
“It was quite an intimate venue. The Bulls fans really support the women’s team and they turned up with drums and everything, but we are on to bigger and better things.
“Super League has grown, the women’s game has grown and it’s only right the final is going to a bigger venue. It is credit to all the people working hard to grow the game and it’s going to be a cool occasion.”