Is turning professional the answer for women’s rugby league in England?

Tara Stanley England Credit: Alamy
Tara Stanley England Credit: Alamy

England women’s coach Craig Richards has stated that turning professional may be the answer for them to compete with the likes of Australia and New Zealand moving forward.

Richards spoke following Monday’s semi-final defeat to New Zealand, when asked if professionalism was the answer, he said: “It is. And I don’t know how we get that. These guys (New Zealand) are going professional so a decision has to be made whether we want to compete with them or not.”

The England women’s team haven’t made the World Cup final since the inaugural tournament in 2000 when they competed as Great Britain.

Richards believes England can build from this tournament and be stronger for the 2025 World Cup in France.

He said: “I think they’ll come away from this and be in a position to dust themselves down and go again. But we need even more quality.”

England boss on potential payments in women’s rugby league

Jodie Cunningham and Emily Rudge England women Credit: Alamy
Jodie Cunningham (left) and Emily Rudge (right) after England’s heartbreaking semi-final defeat to New Zealand

Leeds are set to become the first British rugby league club to pay their women’s team in 2023. And there’s suggestions that other Super League teams should follow in their footsteps.

“I hope so,” an optimistic Richards said. “I don’t want to say too much because you don’t want to put pressure on clubs that are already under pressure.

“But first and foremost, I think they deserve it and I hope that’s the way it goes. On the back of payment, being professional isn’t about finances, it’s about behaviours. I just hope that players who do get financial rewards embrace it and recognise what being professional is.

“The money needs to be a bonus. But there needs to be an attitude change. Everyone needs to work hard.

“I hope that professionalism and finances entice them to push and work as hard as this England squad. If we get a bigger group of players that are similar to these, we’ll beat the Aussies, we’ll beat the Kiwis, we’ll close that gap.”

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