Women’s rugby league is one of the fastest growing sports in this country and at the centre of it stands a great competition in the shape of the Women’s Challenge Cup.
Over the last four years the Cup has risen to new height after new height as Leeds claimed the trophy in 2018 and 2019 before St Helens claimed it in 2021 on their way to the treble.
New heights again beckon in 2022 with the competition taking on a new format with a new final destination waiting.
The tournament will begin with a group stage with four groups of four before the top two in each group go through to the quarter-finals which will be played over the course of the 9th and 10th of April next year.
The group games will take place in March and April with the group draw taking place at Elland Road last week with former Leeds United star Jermaine Beckford taking part.
Last year’s four semi-finalists are all in separate groups as the four top seeds going into the tournament.
In group A, Champions St Helens are joined by local rivals Warrington, Barrow and The Army whilst in Group B two time winners Leeds are joined by Huddersfield, Leigh Miners and Hull FC.
Group C sees last year’s finalists York joined by Wigan, Bradford and Widnes whilst in Group D beaten finalists in 2018 and 2019 Castleford are joined by local rivals Featherstone, Wakefield and the Oulton Raidettes.
The quarter-finals will see the group winners paired with the runners-ups meaning, depending on the results in Groups A and B, we could see a repeat of last year’s Super League Grand Final between St Helens and Leeds as early as the quarter-final stage.
If not they could reunite in the semi-finals which will be drawn in April and played over the 23rd and 24th of the month ahead of the final at Elland Road alongside the men’s Challenge Cup semi-finals on May 7th.
After last year’s Grand Final set a new attendance record for the sport in Leeds at Headingley, it’s likely that this final, also held in Leeds, could set a new record itself or at least go close.
But why is this something to be excited about? Well, for starters the new format means more games and more rugby league to stick our teeth into. This will also help develop the women’s game because the more the developing teams take on the top sides like Champions St Helens the more they’ll improve and the more competitive league we’ll get.
Meanwhile the new final venue is perhaps the most famous venue a women’s rugby league fixture has graced raising the profile of a great and ever-expanding sport.
With plenty of great rugby league provided by the new format and an exciting story to unfurl over the course of the tournament which will culminate in a great final at a great venue, it means the 2022 Women’s Challenge Cup could be the best yet and a real step forward ahead of the World Cup at the end of the year.