Former GB Rugby League internationals Rebecca Stevens and Jane Banks hailed the impact of National Lottery funding in growing the women’s game after visiting Haydock ARLFC.
Stevens, who played Rugby League at international level, including the 1998 tour to New Zealand, the UK World Series in 2000 and the 2002 tour to Australia witnessed first-hand how funding is making a difference at grassroots level.
With nearly half of the England women’s squad at this year’s Rugby League World Cup hailing from or starting out in St Helen’s, legends Stevens and Banks travelled to Haydock ARLFC to take part in a training session with the next generation of stars.
Thanks to National Lottery players, there is significant investment of over £9.3 million to support the development of rugby league across the country between 2022 and 2027.
Haydock ARLFC have been one of the beneficiaries of that investment, spending their portion of the funding on new kit, equipment, and improved facilities.
And Stevens was delighted to see how much the game has changed since she started playing.
She said: “Back in the day, we were scrambling to get girls to play, scrambling to put a team together.
“It was really hard to attract girls into the sport.
“I feel really humbled when I see this many girls in their rugby kit, getting ready to go and throw the ball around.
“So, to think that we have been a small part along that pathway, a small part of growing the game, to see this is fantastic. I cannot tell you how excited I am to see it.
“It bodes really well for the future; these girls will be contenders for those England shirts over the next few World Cups.
“The National Lottery has put investment into the game at the grassroots level all across the country, and the club here have had a grant which is going to be amazing.
“Around half of the players in the England team are either from St Helens or have got a connection here, so it is fantastic to be here and see how that funding is impacting people at this level.
“This is a sport that really needs that funding, particularly in the women and girls’ game.”
England will face New Zealand in the semi-finals of the 2021 World Cup in the hope of becoming the first northern hemisphere side to reach the final since 2000.
National Lottery players were vital is keeping the game alive, stepping in to provide the support required to recommence the Women’s Super League after the pandemic.
And Banks, who is a former international, reinforced the importance of funding to the growth of women’s rugby league after holding a mini session with the girls from Haydock ARLFC.
She added: “The National Lottery have invested quite a lot of money into the facilities here at Haydock.
“It is really good to see that women’s rugby league has got that backing.
“If it weren’t for people playing The National Lottery and buying their tickets during the pandemic, women’s rugby league might not have survived.
“So, that is huge support from a financial point of view.
“Hopefully, some of these girls can get into a future England team.
“The World Cup has been huge; it is displaying everything that women’s rugby league can do.”
The National Lottery are an Official Partner of the Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021). As part of this, they have provided financial support to clubs & communities across England through the RLWC2021 CreatedBy Grants Programme, contributing over £750,000.