The Betfred Women's Super League fixtures for 2022 have been released – with confirmation that Sky Sports will provide live and exclusive coverage of two regular season matches, to be played on Thursday evenings as double headers with Betfred Super League games, as well as repeating last year's coverage of the Semi Finals and Grand Final.
Sky will show the repeat of the 2021 Grand Final between St Helens, the champions, and Leeds Rhinos at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Thursday June 23; and the Rhinos' home game against Wigan Warriors at Headingley on Thursday July 21 – in each case kicking off at 530pm.
The BWSL has expanded again in 2022, to 12 teams, leading to a decision to split the competition into two groups of six – with one up one down between the groups for 2023.
In Group 1, St Helens will launch their title defence with a home derby against Wigan Warriors on the weekend of May 15, when Leeds also face local rivals in Castleford Tigers, and the 2021 Challenge Cup runners-up York City Knights travel to face Huddersfield Giants, who earned their place in the top six by winning the BWSL Shield last autumn.
In Group 2, the BWSL newcomers Barrow Raiders and Leigh Miners Rangers both start with a home game – Barrow against Warrington Wolves, and Miners against Wakefield Trinity. Bradford Bulls will face Featherstone Rovers at Odsal in a repeat of the first Women's Super League Grand Final in 2017.
There are 10 rounds of fixtures culminating in late August, when the top four in each group will qualify for Semi Finals - followed by a Grand Final which is scheduled for the weekend of September 17-18.
Further details of venues for the Semi Finals, Grand Final and ticket sales will be announced soon – with the BWSL aiming to build on the success of the 2021 Grand Final when St Helens beat Leeds Rhinos in front of a record crowd of over 4,000, as well as the Sky Sports cameras.
The Betfred Women's Super League South will also return in 2022 after a successful inaugural season in 2021, when Cardiff Demons beat the British Army in the Grand Final in London – and an application has been accepted for Oxford Cavaliers to join the competition.
The 2022 campaign will kick off in mid-March with the first of three rounds of group matches in the Betfred Women's Challenge Cup, followed by Quarter Finals on the weekend of April 9-10, the Semi Finals two weeks later, and the Final at Elland Road in Leeds on Saturday May 7.
Helen Falkus, Sky Sports Director of Multi-Sports, said: "We're delighted to be providing our customers with more live Betfred Women's Super League matches than ever before with the addition of two regular season games. Showcasing these games as double-headers alongside the men's Betfred Super League games will provide greater visibility for the women's game as it continues to grow. We're proud of our continued commitment to the sport of Rugby League here at Sky Sports and very much look forward to the upcoming season."
Thomas Brindle, the RFL's Head of Growth and General Manager of the BWSL, said: "Every season brings significant steps forward for Women's Rugby League, and confirmation that Sky Sports will show live coverage of two regular season fixtures as well as the Semi Finals and the Grand Final is a great announcement to make as we publish the fixtures.
"Sky's live coverage of the last two Grand Finals in 2019 and 2021 was a huge boost to the profile and prestige of the BWSL, and this is further evidence of their great support of Women's Rugby League.
"The decision to split to two groups of six in 2022 has been taken to ensure greater quality as well as quantity, with a focus on England Women's preparations for the home World Cup at the end of the season.
"After the frustration and disappointment of the Covid-enforced postponement of the 2020 season, 2021 was a year of real progress and encouragement, with the launch of the Betfred Women's Super League South, and a number of new girls competitions and teams.
"That trend has continued for 2022 with a total of 140 teams spread across almost 50 clubs – compared to 78 teams in 2019 and 98 last year – and already this year we've seen Salford Red Devils play their first match against Swinton Lions, and we welcome Oxford Cavaliers to BWSL South.
"The appointment of Jodie Cunningham as National Women's and Girls' Development Manager last November has strengthened the RFL team – and as ever we are grateful to the many volunteers who have helped to drive the development of the Women's and Girls' game, and delighted that more and more continue to do so."
Betfred Women's Super League 2022
Opening fixtures (weekend of May 14-15)
Group 1 – Castleford Tigers v Leeds Rhinos, Huddersfield Giants v York City Knights, St Helens v Wigan Warriors
Group 2 – Barrow Raiders v Warrington Wolves, Bradford Bulls v Featherstone Rovers, Leigh Miners Rangers v Wakefield Trinity
Sky Sports live fixtures (both 530pm kick-off)
Thursday June 23: St Helens v Leeds Rhinos
Thursday July 21: Leeds Rhinos v Wigan Warriors
For full fixture list please go to the Match Centre Rugby League (rugby-league.com)#WeAreYork