The Betfred Women’s Super League will return in April after an absence of more than 18 months – with 10 teams launching the quest to reach the Grand Final on Sunday October 10.
Almost the entire Women’s Rugby League 2020 season was lost to the Covid-19 pandemic, interrupting the momentum that had been building steadily since the Women’s Super League launched as a four-team competition in 2017.
But with England Women desperate to make up for lost time as they prepare for one of the three Rugby League World Cups that will be staged in England this autumn, the BWSL squads were finally cleared to return to training last weekend.
Leeds Rhinos, who won their first Women’s Super League title in the last top-level Women’s Rugby League fixture played in this country – the Grand Final against Castleford Tigers at the Totally Wicked Stadium on October 11, 2019 – will launch their defence against York City Knights on Sunday April 18.
Castleford, who finished on top of the table in 2019 only to fall at the final hurdle to Leeds in both the Super League and the Women’s Challenge Cup, will play their local rivals Featherstone Rovers.
Warrington Wolves, one of the two teams who had been due to enter the competition in 2020, will finally make their BWSL debuts against Wigan Warriors – while the other newcomers, Huddersfield Giants, will have to wait until the first weekend of May before they face St Helens.
However the previous weekend the two newcomers will face each other in one of two Preliminary Round ties in the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup. York will play Wakefield Trinity in the other, with the winners joining the top six from the 2019 Women’s Super League table in the quarter finals in May.
Those ties, and the first 10 rounds of the BWSL season, will be played behind closed doors at two central venues – Sports Park Weetwood in Leeds, and Victoria Park in Warrington. The top four teams at that point will qualify for the Play-Offs, starting in August when it is hoped crowds will be allowed, with the teams playing each other home and away for an additional six rounds of fixtures – at which point the top two qualify for the Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final.
The other six teams will play each other once in a Shield competition, with the top four in that mini-table qualifying for Shield semi finals leading to a BWSL Shield Final. The season structure also includes a two-match Origin series scheduled for July 27 and August 7, again to aid England’s World Cup preparations – which have continued through the winter with regular squad sessions at Sports Park Weetwood.
Thomas Brindle, the General Manager of the BWSL, said: “It has been a long wait, but this will be worth waiting for. 2021 is such a huge year for Women’s Rugby League in this country, with a home World Cup to anticipate, that it’s essential for the Betfred Women’s Super League to resume. The players, clubs and Foundations have worked extremely hard to get us to this point, and we appreciate the continued support of DCMS and Sport England. “We saw such great progress in 2019, with Castleford leading the way in attendances and for results in the regular season, only to lose out twice to Leeds in two memorable occasions, as we attracted title sponsors for the Women’s Challenge Cup and Women’s Super League for the first time, and unprecedented coverage of both games on the BBC and Sky Sports respectively.
“We were excited about our expansion to 10 clubs, and I know that both Huddersfield and Warrington will be especially keen to get going after having to wait 12 months longer than they planned or expected.”
Betfred Women’s Super League, opening fixtures (Sunday April 18): Bradford Bulls v St Helens, Wigan Warriors v Warrington Wolves (both at Victoria Park, Warrington); Castleford Tigers v Featherstone Rovers, Leeds Rhinos v York City Knights (both at Weetwood, Leeds). Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup, preliminary round (Sunday April 25): Huddersfield Giants v Warrington Wolves, York City Knights v Wakefield Trinity.
The full fixture list for the Betfred Women’s Super League 2021, the venue for the Grand Final, and the full schedule for the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup, will be published shortly as well as further details of Our League coverage of the competition. The Women’s Championship and League 1 return as grassroots Rugby League alongside the girls’ competitions, with training due to commence from Monday 29 March.