Women's Super League set to resume after 18 months

554 days since the last game in women's rugby league's Super League - Leeds' win over Castleford in the Grand Final - this Sunday it's finally back.

The entire 2020 season was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic and this year's competition promises to be even bigger and better. Two new teams have entered the league - the Huddersfield Giants and the Warrington Wolves.

This Sunday's opening round of fixtures sees reigning champions Leeds Rhinos entertain York City Knights as part of a double-header featuring a local derby between Castleford Tigers and Featherstone Rovers. Both games will take place behind closed doors at Sport Park Weetwood, Leeds, whilst at Warrington’s Victoria Park the Wolves take on Wigan Warriors and Bradford Bulls will play St Helens in the other Round 1 fixtures.

That final game will see England's vice captain Halifax born Amy Hardcastle make her debut for St Helens against the club she left Bradford.

Amy Hardcastle Credit: ITV Calendar

To be able to play again and for a new team I'm super excited and ready for the challenge. I needed a new challenge with the World Cup coming up this year, I needed to be a better athlete.

Amy Hardcastle, St Helens & England

It promises to be a big year for the women's game with the return of Super League, a Yorkshire v Lancashire origin game in the summer and the World Cup in this country in Autumn.

Probably one of the most important things in my rugby career and to do it on home soil. 2013 I had the opportunity to be in that World Cup but this is on another level - the backing. I've never come across anything like it and I'm so excited to be a part of it.

Amy Hardcastle, St Helens & England

This week Amy paid a visit to Illingworth rugby league club in Halifax to pass on some tips to the youngsters. In less than ten years Illingworth has grown it's girl's section from zero to over 70 spread across five age groups.

Illingworth girls rugby league club Credit: ITV Calendar

I'd like to think I'm a bit of a role model for the girls. There will be some of the girls here tonight that I will be facing in the Super League. We've had some laughs and jokes and if I can give some inspiration to the girls and show them what they can achieve and what they can aim for then that for me is everything.

Amy Hardcastle, St Helens & England

A recent report commissioned by the Rugby Football League claims that since 2017 participation in women's rugby league has increased by 53%. The challenge now is to maintain that progress post pandemic.

It's been really hard actually and it got to the point where I was thinking 'do I carry on or not'?. With the hit and miss training and games it really put me off. But I thought 'no I've always enjoyed it, I've played since I was 8. Keep going Amelia, it keeps you going, it keeps you out of the house.'

Amelia Lund, Illingworth Girls RL Under 18's

It promises to be a big year for women's rugby league. And the success of the Super League and World Cup could well be measured at clubs like Illingworth.