Women’s Super League: Lois Forsell hopes hard work can banish Leeds Rhinos’ Grand Final heartache against York City Knights


Lois Forsell and Leeds are aiming to make up for last year’s Women’s Super League Grand Final disappointment

There was little time for Leeds Rhinos’ squad to dwell on their Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final defeat to St Helens in October last year.

Barely a month after that 28-0 loss at Headingley, head coach Lois Forsell had her players back in pre-season training preparing for the 2022 campaign with the intention of being fitter and stronger than the rest of the competition.

Now, 10 months down the road from those early days of preparation, the 2019 champions are on the eve of their fourth-consecutive Grand Final appearance where they will face York City Knights on Sunday, live on Sky Sports, and last year’s loss is still there in the back of Forsell and the team’s minds.

York City Knights Ladies vs Leeds Rhinos Women

September 18, 2022, 3:00pm

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“Massively,” Forsell said ahead of the showpiece match at St Helens’ Totally Wicked Stadium. “No one wants to feel like that and it’s a long off-season if you walk away from a Grand Final not victorious.

“The girls will still remember that, but they’re taking it training session by training session, game by game and won’t read too much into that.

“It’s about making the most of the now and focusing on the job at hand, and what preparation and hard work has gone into it.”

Forsell knows just what it takes to win on these big occasions from her own playing days, having helped Bradford Bulls to a 36-6 victory over Featherstone Rovers in the inaugural Women’s Super League Grand Final in 2017 and been named player of the match that day too.

Leeds Rhinos' Zoe Hornby says she's excited about the future of the women's game as she prepares for Sunday's Super League Grand Final against York City Knights Ladies.

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Leeds Rhinos’ Zoe Hornby says she’s excited about the future of the women’s game as she prepares for Sunday’s Super League Grand Final against York City Knights Ladies.

Leeds Rhinos’ Zoe Hornby says she’s excited about the future of the women’s game as she prepares for Sunday’s Super League Grand Final against York City Knights Ladies.

The 31-year-old, who has been in charge at Leeds since succeeding Adam Cuthbertson ahead of the Covid-19-enforced cancellation of the 2020 season, was a Women’s Challenge Cup winner with the Rhinos as well before an ACL injury led to her hanging up her boots.

She has already guided Leeds to one final this year, only for them to fall to an 18-8 loss to St Helens in May’s Challenge Cup decider at Elland Road. However, Forsell saw plenty of mental resilience – another area of focus for the squad this year – in that game which she feels has proven key in 2022.

“It’s been big for us in terms of creating that sense of belief and that confidence,” Forsell said. “They definitely had that in the Challenge Cup final, we just didn’t take some of the really, really important opportunities and made a few mistakes which cost you in big games.

“That’s what finals are all about, but in terms of the determination and character, that was still there and we’ve built on that in the later part of the season.

It’s a long off-season if you walk away from a Grand Final not victorious.

Leeds Rhinos head coach Lois Forsell

“I think in the semi-final against St Helens we saw that and even in the Challenge Cup final at Elland Road, we didn’t get the result but it was a tough performance from the girls.

“They were pretty resilient that day, they just didn’t have enough and sometimes that’s fine against a team which plays better than you on the day. But it wasn’t a question of character, it was a question of taking some of the opportunities and being a little smarter.”

That cup run included beating this weekend’s opponents York 26-24 in a thrilling semi-final, but the City Knights have had the better of things in the BWSL regular season after securing the League Leaders’ Shield in the final round courtesy of a 22-14 win over the Rhinos.

It marked the first time York had finished top of the table and their progress to a maiden Grand Final appearance, via a 12-4 win over 2018 champions Wigan Warriors in the semi-finals two weeks ago, is another sign of the growth of the team since trailblazing former Castleford Tigers boss Lindsay Anfield took charge.

Highlights of the Betfred Women's Super League semi-final match between York City Knights and Wigan Warriors

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Highlights of the Betfred Women’s Super League semi-final match between York City Knights and Wigan Warriors

Highlights of the Betfred Women’s Super League semi-final match between York City Knights and Wigan Warriors

“I’ve only been with the team a year and so have a lot of the other girls and I knew we would get there eventually, but I just didn’t realise it would be this soon,” the City Knights’ England international Savannah Andrade told the club’s official website.

“After a year of being together, we’ve gone from third to first, which is a really big jump, and I wasn’t expecting us to do so well.

“We’re just a really close-knit team, we do everything for each other, and it shows in our games.”

Just how much the Rhinos, who ended St Helens’ reign as champions with a 14-6 victory in the other semi-final, and City Knights have been the stand-out teams in the competition in 2022 is underlined by the number of nominations from each club in the Woman of Steel and Young Player of the Year awards.

Highlights of the Betfred Women's Super League semi-final match between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos

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Highlights of the Betfred Women’s Super League semi-final match between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos

Highlights of the Betfred Women’s Super League semi-final match between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos

Forsell and Anfield, who will make a bit of history on Sunday by becoming the first two female coaches to face each other in a BWSL Grand Final, are both up for the Coach of the Year accolade as well.

There is no doubt both would swap any personal accolades for team success in Sunday’s showdown though.

“We’re all here because we want to win,” Forsell said. “Yeah, we play for enjoyment, but ultimately, we play each game because we want to play in the tough games and want to go out and win.

“It’s a bit cliche to say it means everything, but that’s what we’re there for. You put everything in because you want to get everything out, and that everything is winning the Grand Final.”

Women’s Super League Grand Final squads

York City Knights: Tara-Jane Stanley, Tamzin Renouf, Savannah Andrade, Kelsey Gentles, Georgie Hetherington, Katie Langan, Sinead Peach, Hollie Dodd, Olivia Wood, Jasmine Bell, Bettie Lambert, Georgia Taylor, Daisy Sanderson, Emma Kershaw, Matilda Butler, Olivia Gale, Lacey Owen, Elisa Akpa, Leila Bessahli.

Leeds Rhinos: Caitlin Beevers, Tara Moxon, Sophie Robinson, Fran Goldthorpe, Sophie Nuttall, Courtney Winfield-Hill, Keara Bennett, Dannielle Anderson, Chloe Kerrigan, Hanna Buthcer, Shannon Lacey, Zoe Hornby, Tasha Gaines, Sam Hulme, Jasmine Earnshaw-Cudjoe, Emma Lumley, Lucy Murray, Beth Lockwood, Alex Barnes.



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