Women’s RL: Big-game experience is on Leeds Rhinos’ side for Grand Final

Leeds Rhinos' Courtney Hill and Wigan's Gemma Walsh with the Women's  Super League Trophy. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Leeds Rhinos' Courtney Hill and Wigan's Gemma Walsh with the Women's Super League Trophy. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
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BIG-GAME experience could make the difference for Leeds Rhinos’ women this weekend, half-back Courtney Hill reckons.

Leeds, who face Wigan Warriors in the Women’s Super League Grand Final at Manchester Regional Arena on Saturday, beat Castleford Tigers in the Challenge Cup final two months ago. That game, played at Warrington Wolves’ HJ Stadium, was a test of nerve and Hill believes coming through it will stand Rhinos in good stead in two days’ time.

Injured Rhinos prop, Danika Priim playing for England against Papua New Guinea in the Women's Rugby League World Cup last November. Picture: Delly Carr/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ.

Injured Rhinos prop, Danika Priim playing for England against Papua New Guinea in the Women's Rugby League World Cup last November. Picture: Delly Carr/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ.

“It could quite possibly help the girls in their preparation,” said Hill who had not played open-age rugby before joining Leeds at the start of the year.

“The build-up to the Challenge Cup was massive and it was a great experience. We came into the sheds down at half-time and it was a great learning experience in how to fight back in a pressure game. It will certainly give the girls a lot of confidence coming into the big game on Saturday.”

Rhinos finished top of Super League and are one win away from completing the treble in their debut campaign.

Hill, who has scored seven tries and 63 goals in 15 appearances, said: “How amazing would that be in our first season? It would be a wonderful achievement, not just for the team, but the entire club, to do the triple.

Injured Leeds Rhinos captain, Lois Forsell playing for England against Australia in the Women's Rugby League World Cup last November. Picture: Delly Carr/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ.

Injured Leeds Rhinos captain, Lois Forsell playing for England against Australia in the Women's Rugby League World Cup last November. Picture: Delly Carr/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ.

“At the start of the season we were lucky enough to go along to see the premiere of As Good As It Gets? [a film about Rhinos men’s 2015 treble triumph] and it was a great history lesson for me. If the women’s team could do that in their first season it would be amazing.”

Wigan will have something to say about that. Also a new side, they are one of only two teams to beat Leeds in a competitive match.

Hill, a cricketer in Australia before moving to England this year, recalled: “We’ve played them three times, we’ve won two and they’ve won one, but there’s not been a lot in it.

“They’ve all been wonderful battles and close games.

“I would hope for nothing but the same on Saturday. It will be a long 80 minutes, but we are looking forward to it.”

Dominance during the league season is no guarantee of victory in a Grand Final, Hill knows. She added: “It has been a good season, but we haven’t had it all our own way. We have had some very hard-fought battles, we’ve lost a few, but we’ve bounced back.

“It makes it all the sweeter when things are not perfect. We are looking forward to potentially putting the icing on the cake or at least getting an opportunity to do that. We have put ourselves in a good position.”

Rhinos have so far coped with the loss of two of their most influential players, prop Danika Priim and hooker Lois Forsell, both to anterior cruciate knee ligament injuries.

“That’s a tribute to the girls for putting their hand up and doing a good job for the team,” Hill reflected.

“Especially with Danika being out for a lot of the year. Poor Lois, how unfortunate to do that in the second-last game of the year. It is really unfortunate for her, but also an opportunity for other players.

“Some young players have come in and experienced the back end of the season and it’s also credit to the coaching staff who support these girls and get them ready to play in big games.”