Beevers continuing to set records as women’s rugby league flourishes


How did you celebrate your 18th birthday?

Studying for your A-levels? Buying your first round? Taking in a nightclub?

How about helping your club to a historic domestic double in a game shown live to thousands of people on Sky Sports?

That’s exactly what Caitlin Beevers did on Friday, playing a pivotal role in helping Leeds Rhinos secure victory over Castleford Tigers in the Grand Final to secure their first ever Women’s Super League title.

It’s the culmination of an incredible 22 months on the pitch for the fullback that started with her selection for the Rhinos U19 academy in January 2018, saw her promoted to the senior team just weeks later, finish as top try scorer last season, win two Challenge Cups alongside the league title and score two tries on her England debut last October.

Beevers has now flown out to Australia having been selected to represent her country once again in the inaugural Rugby League World 9s, has also been picked for a historic tour of Papua New Guinea and is widely regarded as one of the finest young players in the world game.

It has been a truly remarkable ascent, one that even the Dewsbury-born player never saw coming.

Speaking about it in an interview with SportSpiel, she recalled: “I’d trained a few times with Leeds U19s and then we trained with the first team and that was the first time I met my the players who would become my team-mates.

“It was amazing to firstly get into the first team as it wasn’t something I expected so early on, with me not playing any games for the U19s.

“And then I never imagined the first England call. Don’t get me wrong, it was a huge goal of mine but I just thought it was miles ahead into the future, not at this age.

“I was massively shocked [to be selected for the World Cup and Papua New Guinea]. I didn’t expect to get the call for either.

“It’s something really, really special and it’s an absolute honour to represent my country again.”

Even though she has only just turned an age where she can legally vote, Beevers has already become a star of the game in this country.

And unlike those who have gone before her, the former St John Fisher pupil is able to show her outrageous skill and pace to the watching world as women’s rugby league continues to attract ever more supporters and media coverage.

As well as the Grand Final being shown on Sky, both of Leeds’ Challenge Cup victories have been streamed on the BBC.

More than 4,000 people also turned up to watch this year’s cup final at the University of Bolton Stadium, while clubs have also been taking some of their games to men’s stadiums this year, something we have subsequently seen in the FA WSL.

Having grown up only with male role models to try and emulate, Beevers is relishing the opportunity she has to inspire the next generation of rugby league stars.

“When I was younger the only people I could look up to were the males playing in the Super League,” she said.

“But now young girls have women to look up to and aspire to be and I think that’s absolutely fantastic for the game. It shows how much it is growing. There’s so much great talent coming through the system at every level and at every club.

“This year’s Challenge Cup final was an outstanding game and it really promoted the women’s game in a phenomenal light.

“A lot of people watching may not have even seen it before so what an introduction that would have been to them.

“And to get 4,000 people coming to the game, some of those may have bought their daughters to watch so hopefully they have been inspired to try and get to our level one day.”

It’s not just as a player where Beevers is breaking boundaries either.

As we wrote last year, she first shot to prominence by becoming the first woman to referee a game at Wembley Stadium, taking charge of the 2018 Year 7 Boys’ National Schools Final on the same day as the men’s Challenge Cup final.

She has since gone on to officiate a number of other high profile games, including a first international game as a touch judge when an England Youth side took on France.

Beevers is following in the footsteps of Belinda Sharpe, the first woman to referee an NRL match having taken charge of Brisbane Broncos v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs earlier this year after also being the first to run the line in the men’s league back in 2014.

And as well as inspiring women to take up the game she loves, Beevers also wants to give them the self-belief to be able to pick up a whistle too.

“I couldn’t find words to describe it at first,” she said of her historic Wembley day.

“It was such a big record to hold and such a big event on the calendar to do it at as well, at Wembley on Challenge Cup day.

“At the end of the game someone told me to look around, take a minute and I had no words for the occasion. It was something special.

“I’m there to do my job and if people can look at me and be inspired then I’m happy; it’s a win-win.

“If promoting female officials can come through me I would put my hand up for that. If they questions I’ll be there to answer them because at the end of the day that will help them grow in confidence.”

 

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