Leeds Rhinos captain and reigning Woman of Steel Courtney Hill says the excitement of being involved in the rugby league “movement” in Britain was partly the reason she chose to remain in the sport.
The ex-cricketer was considering donning her whites once again in 2020 but eventually chose to stay with the current Women’s Super League champions.
And it wasn’t just the lure of defending that title that persuaded Hill to stay. For her, there’s a much bigger picture.
“Something changed for me when I went home to Australia recently in October,” said Hill, who featured for Sydney Roosters at the NRL Nines in February. “Previously I’ve sat on the side and watched my former teammates play cricket. You sit there and probably have your cricket hat on, and I still do.
“But I sit there now as a rugby league player. I’m not a cricketer anymore, I’m a rugby league player.
“This movement of rugby league over here in the UK is something that I really do want to be a part of and in as many ways as possible. Whether it’s during my playing career or it’s beyond, it’s about pushing forward and seeing where we can take the game and how we create that.
“It’s a really exciting period, particularly with the home World Cup in 2021, but that’s going to create a lot of interest and buzz in the game, so hopefully we can try to boost off the back of that as well.
Given how passionately she speaks about the growth of the game in general, it will come as no surprise that she is equally as invested in the grassroots side of women’s rugby league.
On several occasions last season, local junior women’s teams would play in the curtain raiser to the Rhinos Women’s clashes, something Hill says fills her and her teammates with plenty of pride.
“As the old saying goes, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’,” she added. “If it’s in sight for them, it gives them something to aspire to and with the young girls I’ve been to watch before our games – there’s so much passion there.
“We just want more numbers in the game and I’ve certainly seen that in the short time I’ve been in England. In my day, when I was tiny and playing, I was one of very few girls that played.
“Now, there’s full girls’ teams, there’s full girls’ competitions. Their brothers are on the side-line supporting them rather than the other way around and small things like that are making a difference.
“We’ve just started a new decade and I can’t wait to see where women’s rugby league and rugby league in general goes in the next ten years.”