Women's Super League: Leeds Rhinos 80 minutes away from Grand Final return at end of 'challenging year'

Leeds Rhinos' women are on course for a home Grand Final - but face a tough challenge in Sunday’s qualifier against York City Knights at St Helens.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 6:00 am
Courtney Winfield-Hill with the Women's Super League trophy after Rhinos' win over Castleford Tigers in 2019. Picture by Steve Riding.

The winners will take on either Saints or Castleford Tigers in the Betfred Women’s Super League title decider at Emerald Headingley on Sunday, October 10.

Rhinos’ only defeat this year was to eventual winners St Helens in a Challenge Cup semi-final, though the same opposition were awarded a 24-0 victory when Leeds could not raise a team for their league encounter.

That effectively handed the league leaders’ shield to Saints, who play Castleford in Sunday’s other semi-final, also at TW Stadium.

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But the big prize is still up for grabs and Leeds captain Courtney Winfield-Hill reckons a third successive Grand Final appearance would be a reward for the way Rhinos have coped with a challenging year.

“We’ve had so many injuries,” she said of Rhinos’ defence of the title they won in 2019.

“However, it just means opportunities for others and the youngsters have taken them with both hands and put us in a position to play in a semi-final.”

After all 2020 matches were cancelled, Rhinos had a six-week pre-season and it has been a stop-start league campaign, due to gaps in the fixture list and coronavirus.

“It’s perhaps lucky the World Cup has been postponed, because I don’t think we’ve had truly competitive matches throughout the season,” the Leeds captain said.

“At points there have been, but across the board I don’t think so. Maybe on an England front it’s a good thing, but we keep turning up and I keep reminding the girls we have to be adaptable to whatever the season throws at us.”

Winfield-Hill admitted forfeiting the league game against Saints was tough to take, but - with just 14 available players - feels it was the right decision.

“We wanted to play Saints and beat them and put ourselves up to be the league leaders,” she said.

“But ultimately we are just putting ourselves in a position to be fit, healthy and prepared for a semi-final.”

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