League Express editor Martyn Sadler looks back at a historic weekend for Rugby League as the BBC broadcast the Women’s Challenge Cup final live for the first time.
What a weekend that was!
There was something new, something we’re all familiar with, something controversial and something unexpected.
What more could we have asked for?
And most of it was on the BBC, broadcast hopefully into millions of homes, and it would be good to think that some of those viewers would have been stimulated to try Rugby League live after such great entertainment.
Of course, the new thing we saw was the first showing of the Women’s Challenge Cup Final on the BBC.
And it wasn’t just the women on the pitch.
The game was presented by regular BBC presenter Tanya Arnold, the two pundits were Andrea Dobson and Danika Priim, who both did a great job giving us an insight into Women’s Rugby League and the game itself, and the commentator was Sharon Shortle, whose commentary work on Radio York I’ve long admired.
The only male presence in the presentation was Robbie Hunter-Paul, who acted as the co-commentator.
The game itself was well contested and entertaining, clearly showing how standards have risen in the women’s game over recent years.
Players like Jodie Cunningham, Emily Rudge and Amy Hardcastle will, I hope, become much more well known later this year in the World Cup, alongside plenty of other women who will show what a great game Rugby League is for all genders.
Ideally, we would have had a closer Cup Final, but York always seemed competitive, although not quite good enough to overcome St Helens. What a great job the club has done in putting together a superb Women’s team to set alongside their established Men’s team.
And can I make one suggestion for future Women’s Challenge Cup Finals?
I noticed that the trophy for the player of the match didn’t have an official title.
I’d like to float the name of Rob Burrow as an appropriate figure after whom the trophy could be named.
A lot of Rugby League supporters would like to see Rob’s name added to a major trophy. And what could be more fitting than the Women’s Challenge Cup Final?
Of course, Rob may not be female himself, but we’ve all seen how dedicated he is to his (largely female) family. He’s a wonderful role model and to celebrate his brilliance, his courage and his sheer humanity by naming a trophy like this in his honour would be a wonderful development, in my view.
Turner’s long wait
One of the best images of the weekend was Jordan Turner running to celebrate Castleford’s success with his wife and mother straight after the Tigers’ 35-20 victory over Warrington on Saturday.
It was a magnificent performance by Castleford and it comes only two weeks after I asked where the club is heading in a previous incarnation of this column.
On Twitter, one Castleford fan scanned the opening to that column and replied that the club is going to Wembley, which is fair enough.
Castleford have had some great performances at various times under Daryl Powell, but I thought Saturday’s performance ranks only slightly behind their 66-10 demolition of Leeds Rhinos in March 2017.
The difference is that this time there was far more at stake and the Tigers will be at Wembley for the first time since 2014. I only hope that we’ll have a great crowd at Wembley to see them take on St Helens on 17 July.
Jordan Turner made his debut for Salford as a 17-year-old in 2006, having come through the club’s Academy ranks after growing up in Oldham and playing for Waterhead.
In those early days he captained the England Under-18s team and was voted Academy Player and Young Player of the Year in 2007, which makes the RFL’s decision not to award Salford an Elite Academy licence even more ironic.
Jordan has waited many years to get the chance to play at Wembley.
You would have needed a very hard heart indeed not to feel happy for him.
World Cup’s ecological credentials
One man whose job I wouldn’t want at the moment is Rugby League World Cup CEO Jon Dutton, with so much uncertainty surrounding whether the tournament will go ahead later this year.
I think it will, but I hope all the competing nations will be at full strength.
Meanwhile it was good to see the World Cup being linked with tree planting, with one tree to be planted for every try scored.
As a tree lover myself, I was delighted to see that development.
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