Lois Forsell: Coach says Leeds Rhinos can overturn odds in Women's Super League Grand Final against St Helens

Coach Lois Forsell is confident Leeds Rhinos can retain their Betfred Women’s Super League title, despite going into the Grand Final as underdogs.

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 6:00 am
Two-try star Sophie Nuttall, right, celebrates with Fran Goldthorp during Rhinos' semi-final win over York. Picture by Paul Currie/SWpix.com.

Rhinos hit back from 10 points behind at half-time to pip York City Knights 22-18 in a tense semi-final two days ago.

That set up a championship decider against unbeaten St Helens at Emerald Headingley on Sunday, October 10.

Forsell admitted Rhinos will need to be much better than they were in the first half against York, when they conceded three tries, but insisted her side have the spirit needed to upset the odds.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Lois Forsell, right, with captain Courtney Winfield-Hill after Rhinos' 2019 Grand Final win. Picture by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images.

“We’ve had to be adaptable, because we’ve probably got four or five of our pack out injured at the moment,” Forsell said.

“We have not had it all our own way this year and we’ve had to dig deep, so we know we’ve got that character to bounce back.

“We’ve been on the big stage before and although we’ve got a lot of new players in our squad, we’ve also got a lot who have been there and done that.

“I have got the belief in the girls to pull it out of the bag as and when they need it, but we have got to start better than we have done in the last couple of games.”

Sunday’s win was marred by an ankle injury to substitute Eloise Hayward.

She was due to undergo a scan yesterday and Forsell said: “We put her into a boot [after the game] to try and help with swelling and we’ll see what the news is after her scan.

“We are hoping it is not too serious because she has been a really good addition to our squad this year.”

Portsmouth-born Hayward, 22, played rugby union abroad as well as with West Park Leeds, Gloucester, Worcester Valkyries and Saracens before signing for Rhinos this year.

She was capped by England in rugby union sevens and Forsell said: “She has been brilliant.

“She’s one of the players who has had to juggle a few commitments with rugby union so we haven’t seen as much of her as we’d have liked, but she is - without a doubt - a threat whenever she steps on to the field.”

Dannielle Anderson, Adahoa Akwiwu, Shannon Lacey, Tara Moxon and Paige Webster have already been ruled out with season-ending injuries.

Leeds were forced to forfeit their play-off clash with Saints after coronavirus and injuries reduced left them with only 14 available players.

That effectively handed the league leaders’ shield to Saints, who inflicted Rhinos’ only defeat on the field this season in a Challenge Cup semi-final.

But Forsell is hopeful Rhinos will have some troops back to boost their squad for next month’s showpiece.

“Ellie Oldroyd is potentially looking to make her return,” she confirmed.

“Ella Johnson is coming back to fitness after isolating on the back of the Covid stuff we had go on and she is just getting back to match fitness.

“Amy Johnson is maybe going to struggle for the final, but she’s still in our thoughts and we’ll see how she goes over the next couple of weeks at training.”

Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.