The Women’s Super League continued to grow in stature throughout its second season, and Rugby League World magazine continued its unrivalled coverage of the women’s game by picking out ten of the players who made the biggest impact in 2019.
10 Victoria Molyneux
Having joined the club at the start of the season, Victoria Molyneux (pictured above) made an instant impression on Wigan Warriors.
Making 11 appearances in all, the loose forward’s presence on the pitch did not go unnoticed, winning Wigan’s Players Player and the Club Player of the Year awards as the season drew to a close.
9 Caitlin Beevers
2019 reads as a long list of highlights for Caitlin Beevers. Challenge Cup winner, winning the Grand Final on her 18th birthday, touring Australia and Papua New Guinea with England and making her NCL Debut as a match official.
It’s no wonder she was one of 10 nominees for the BBC’s Young Sports Personality of the Year award.
8 Fran Goldthorp
This 16-year-old winger (pictured) really started to make a name for herself in 2019.
Within weeks of her first-team debut, she had scored in a Challenge Cup final and become the youngest player to lift that trophy.
She also later went on to score twice in the Grand Final as the Rhinos completed the double.
7 Kelsey Gentles
One of three nominees for the Woman of Steel award, Kelsey Gentles, who also made her England debut in 2019, was a constant threat out wide for Castleford Tigers.
She never took a backwards step and was always there when the side needed that crucial try or a pick-you-up on the odd occasion the Tigers weren’t getting things their own way.
6 Tara Stanley
Pretty much all of Castleford’s play in key areas had fullback Tara Stanley controlling it. And she was consistent at doing that well.
As one of the most experienced players in Lindsay Anfield’s young squad, Stanley offered a calming presence throughout the year as the Tigers shone.
The 26-year-old ended the campaign as the League’s top scorer with a total of 231 points, through 23 tries, 69 goals and a drop goal in all competitions and went on tour with England.
5 Amy Hardcastle
Bradford Bulls may not have made it into the play-offs but their star centre or second-rower Amy Hardcastle (pictured) was one of Super League’s best.
As the club’s top try-scorer it is not hard to see why her industrious work in the pack was rewarded with the club’s Woman of Steel Award at the end of the campaign.
Coaches Kirsty Moroney and Beth Sutcliffe will be hoping for more of the same from the England international next year if the Bulls are to push for honours once again.
4 Dannielle Anderson
It may have been her captain and teammate Courtney Hill taking all the individual plaudits and accolades, but once again Dannielle Anderson was Miss Consistent for Leeds Rhinos in 2019.
Her tireless work in the middle of the field so often put the Rhinos on the front foot in games and it was her break in the Challenge Cup Final that put Hill in for the match-winning try.
No doubt she was always one of the first names on coach Adam Cuthbertson’s teamsheet and will continue to be so as she gets more and more experienced.
The stand-out performances weren’t just restricted to the Blue and Amber shirt though. She starred for England in both the World Nines in Sydney and the historic tour of Papua New Guinea.
3 Sinead Peach
Ask anyone with a passing interest in the game to name some of the Tigers biggest names and Sinead Peach might not be the name that instantly springs from their lips, but those heavily involved know her all too well.
Playing at the pivotal role of hooker put a lot of pressure on her shoulders as Castleford were the dominant force for the majority of the season. But it was pressure she handled superbly, leading the side around the pitch with authority and a calm head.
She would often put her body on the line for the sake of her teammates – as the lump she showed off on her head after the Grand Final defeat would testify.
Thankfully that knock didn’t prevent her from having her form rewarded with a place on the England tour in October.
With the Tigers once again aiming for Silverware in 2020, Peach’s contribution will again be vital.
2 Emily Rudge
Quite possibly one of the hardest working forwards in the game, Emily Rudge has been a leading light at St Helens in 2019.
Her work rate and enthusiasm have won her supporters across the game so it is little surprise she was one of three names on the shortlist for the Woman of Steel prize.
Eleven tries in 13 Super League appearances this season show how potent she was in attack, but she was just as fierce in defence – never shying away from the big hits.
And as England’s most capped player, it’s hardly surprising she was picked to retain the captaincy of the international side for their trip to the Southern Hemisphere.
After being a stand-out player in the Nines, Rudge went on to become the first Women’s player to score four tries in a match for England, when she faced the Orchids in Goroka in the opening test.
1 Courtney Hill
In only her second season at Leeds and in Rugby League, Australian Courtney Hill (pictured) had an unbelievable year.
Following an injury to Lois Forsell, Hill was handed the captaincy at the Rhinos and was instrumental in leading them to a League and Cup double.
Her try, after a smart offload by Dannielle Anderson, on the hour mark of the Challenge Cup Final proved crucial against a Castleford Tigers side who had not lost a game up until that point.
Her performance that day won her the player of the match trophy and she was equally important when they two sides met again in the Super League Grand Final.
Although the personal accolades went to Fran Goldthorp on that occasion, Hill was behind many of the Rhinos’ points that day – as she was for much of the season.
Her organisation skills across the field and the influence she had on those around her was clear for all to see and that is what eventually saw her named as Woman of Steel and the game’s End of Season Awards night.
One player who came close to making the Women’s top ten countdown was Featherstone’s Natalie Harrowell (right) after another influential season for Rovers.
As one of the club’s longest serving players, her presence in the Featherstone line-up, and her passion for growing the Women’s game could never be underestimated.
Earlier this year she took up a role as a Women’s and Girls development officer at Wakefield Trinity. Despite her new connections with that club, and her love for home-town club Hull FC, Natalie turned down many offers to play elsewhere to stay loyal to Rovers.
She captained the side as they made the inaugural Super League Grand Final in 2017, and represented England on three occasions.
All of us here at Rugby League World were deeply saddened when news of her tragic death broke on December 10. She was just 29 year-old and leaves behind a young daughter, Olivia.
Our thoughts remain with Olivia, the rest of Natalie’s family and friends and all those at Featherstone and Wakefield at this terrible time.
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