CJ’s Column: Q&A with Featherstone captain and Scotland head coach Andrea Dobson

I welcomed ex-England captain, current Featherstone Rovers’ captain and newly appointed Scotland head coach Andrea Dobson to chat all things women’s rugby league.

CJ: So how old were you when you first got involved with rugby league and for what team?

AD: I was 12 years old. I don’t originally come from Yorkshire and my first team was the Pendle Panthers. I was approached to come over and to get involved and I’ve never looked back since.

CJ: Do you have links with Scotland via family etc?

AD: No none whatsoever, I was born Lancashire and moved to Yorkshire after University.

CJ: You have many accolades and achievements in your rugby career, but out of all of them, which is your favourite and why?

AD: It has to be me playing for England in the 2013 World Cup and there after becoming captain in 2014, when we played against the Kiwis at Featherstone Rovers’ home ground the LD Nutrition Stadium. The atmosphere and the support was outstanding, to have your family and friends there to watch made it even more special, regardless of the score and the fact we were 16-16 with 10 mins to go lost 30-16.

Andrea and I talked of the reasons why she became a coach. Andrea works for the RFU and is a community coach, she has been coaching already for many years so the transition to rugby league coaching makes no difference other than the code, as the fundamentals are already in place.

CJ: At this present time, who is your favourite coach and why, and which coach inspired you?

AD: Steve Swann was my coach at Pendle Panthers, he inspired me and it was because of him I became involved in rugby. As for empowerment and my own coaching progression it would have to be Chris Chapman, the former England coach, he has been an integral part of my coaching development.

CJ: What are your goals for the Scotland ladies’ team?

AB: We are starting from the beginning so initially we will draft from players all over the UK with a Scottish history and thereafter from schools and women who may have played union and are looking to transition over to league. I will be concentrating on team development, emerging nationals, a realistic time frame and look to competing at a level in the near future. Winning is always in the sights but making sure the team is ready and developed will be my main priority.

CJ: What do you think can be done to raise the profile of Women’s Rugby League?

AD: Social media is the way ahead, not only via the players clubs but also their own, platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for visuals. Many clubs are producing foundations and pathways, and these are also crucial to grass roots development. The RFL have introduced the 21 by 21 and also large sponsorships such as Betfred and the live streaming app Our League. The final was screened on Sky Sports which was a monumental development to our game. It also proved that the larger outlets are listening and are promoting us which is a huge step in the right direction.

CJ: Would a point’s system cap on international players be a fairer system for the league?

AD: I believe a fairer system would benefit the league, a healthy approach to recruitment or maybe a code of conduct for recruitment. We also need to invest in our feeder clubs and grass roots to ensure we pick up these players who are playing in the lower leagues to prevent them being overlooked or forgotten.

CJ: The start of the Women’s Super League is drawing closer, do you have a prediction for next season and are there any young players to watch out for?

AD: Castleford are growing in strength and they were unfortunate last season; it appears they will be hungry next season. As for young players we have a few coming up from Featherstone Rovers, Charley Blackburn was unfortunately injured this season however once fully fit she will be a contender, we also have Chloe Reynolds (winger) and Brogan Kennedy – both have developed a steady pace and showed they are comfortable and can play against the others in the top flight.

I thanked Andrea for taking up her time to talk to me and wished her and the rest of her teammates at Featherstone Rovers good luck for the 2020 season. Featherstone Rovers will be holding trials for the up and coming season at the LD Nutrition Stadium on Sunday 8 December (12pm – 2pm). Players are to bring warm weather, water and suitable boots. Good luck to all those who attend.

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