For many a year Featherstone Rovers’ Ladies side were the team to beat in Women’s Rugby League. Then came along Thatto Heath and Bradford Thunderbirds who are now always challenging for the trophies as well and with the game constantly growing in both profile and participation, it surely can’t be long before other serious challengers emerge.
Featherstone stand-off Katie Cooper-Birkenhead has seen first-hand a team that, if they continue to improve as they have in recent years, could soon be one of the leading lights of the game.
After having a short spell with Oulton Raidettes over the winter season, and winning April’s Challenge Cup with them, Cooper-Birkenhead knows that the success of last year can only lead to more good for the fledging West Yorkshire side.
“Other than internationals, nothing is bigger than playing in a Challenge Cup Final, ” Cooper-Birkenhead (pictured), who was part of England’s 2013 World Cup squad, told Total Rugby League.
“The Oulton side have only been going for about four years so it is great that they now have that experience of a final like that and hopefully they can crack on here and use that experience to take them forward in the game.
“Winning a cup also pulls you all together even more as a team and it makes you want to achieve the same thing over and over again so everyone works even harder for each other and that all helps with development as well.
“Going straight into the summer season can be a tough ask, but Oulton have got a big squad with some great young girls coming through so numbers wise they are looking healthy for the season ahead.
“Hopefully they can now build on the success they have had. They are a great club with a great set of girls so I really hope they do well, they deserve it.”
Cooper-Birkenhead was named player of the match in that Challenge Cup Final after leading the side round the field and contributing 12 points, with a try and four goals, in the Raiders’ 20-6 win over York Ladies.
She has since returned to Featherstone, where she has spent most of her playing career to date, as the new RFL season kicked-off last month, but she will always remember that brief taste of success she enjoyed at the Leeds-based club.
“In all there were six or seven of us, including my other half Sarah, that played at Oulton in the winter that are now back with Featherstone,” added the 27 year-old.
“Sarah was playing down there first so I was at all the games anyway and decided that I would go along to training and if they wanted me to play I would. In the end I played three games for them towards the end of the season.
“There is no better feeling than winning the Challenge Cup and it still feels great to know that we did it. The score didn’t reflect game at all as York played the best I have seen them play. We just had a bit more momentum in the end. York were piling pressure on us in the first half and we defended really well and that kept us in it at the break. If it had not been for that scoreline would have been completely different.
“I did play well but as a half back you can only do that if everyone around me performs as well. Every single person turned up on the day and that really helped us.
“Although I am now back at Featherstone I will still keep an eye on how Oulton are doing and if we are not playing one weekend and Oulton are I am sure we will all go down and watch.
“I hope they do well this season – as long as they don’t play well against Featherstone.”