St Helens and York City Knights each have two contenders to become Rugby League’s third Woman of Steel when the award is presented alongside the Steve Prescott Man of Steel on Sky Sports on October 4.
The Saints captain Jodie Cunningham is joined by her club team-mate and England captain Emily Rudge on the five-strong shortlist, alongside York team-mates Rhiannion Marshall and Sinead Peach, and the teenage Leeds Rhinos centre Fran Goldthorp.
The Woman of Steel award was introduced in 2018, with Castleford’s Georgia Roche the first winner, followed by the Leeds captain Courtney Winfield-Hill in 2019.
There was no award in 2020 with the Betfred Women’s Super League suspended because of Covid-19, but it returns in 2021 – with the contenders considered by a panel of experts, given the interruptions in the BWSL season which have made a players’ poll impractical.
The winner will be announced on a special Sky Sports programme celebrating the Betfred Super League and BWSL seasons on Monday October 4 from 8pm.
All five contenders will be in action in the BWSL Semi Finals on Sunday afternoon, when St Helens face Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos take on York City Knights in a double header at the Totally Wicked Stadium, with both games live on Sky Sports in another first for Women’s Rugby League.
The winners will meet in the Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final at Emerald Headingley Stadium on Sunday October 10 – again, live on Sky Sports. Tickets are available now Event Information Screen – Rugby League Tickets (eticketing.co.uk)
Betfred Women’s Super League Woman of Steel, 2021 – shortlist
Jodie Cunningham (St Helens) – with 10 tries and 20 assists, the versatile playmaker has led from the front as Saints have enjoyed a landmark season winning the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup and the BWSL League Leaders’ Shield for the first time. Jodie also scored a try in England’s Mid-Season International victory against Wales.
Fran Goldthorp (Leeds Rhinos) – the youngest player on the shortlist, and still a teenager, the graceful centre has kicked on from her breakthrough performance in Leeds’s 2019 BWSL Grand Final triumph against Castleford, scoring a total of 20 tries including one on her England debut against Wales in June.
Rhiannion Marshall (York City Knights) – one of a number of players who moved to York from Castleford in May, having played a key role in the Tigers’ successful 2019 campaign when they won the BWSL League Leaders’ Shield. Rhiannion is a strong and skilful loose forward and also an outstanding goalkicker, who will be aiming to reach her third consecutive Grand Final with three different clubs.
Sinead Peach (York City Knights) – another former Castleford player who excelled for the Tigers in 2019, having previously played for Featherstone Rovers. Sinead is a hard-working and creative hooker who scored the Knights’ only try of the 2021 Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final against St Helens.
Emily Rudge (St Helens) – the England captain scored two tries in the Mid-Season International against Wales, and the strong-running second-row, who was also a nominee in 2019, has been prolific for Saints all year with 13 tries from 11 appearances taking her beyond 100 points for the club.
In previous years, the shortlist has been selected by player votes. However a Covid-related restructure to the 2021 BWSL season has meant that not all teams have played each other – therefore the decision was made that for this season the shortlist would be selected by an independent panel.
The independent panel members are:
- Tom Brindle – Chair, RFL Head of Growth;
- Lorraine Marsden – Rugby League Express, Women’s Rugby League correspondent;
- Stuart Barrow – England Rugby League Women and Wheelchair Programme Manager;
- Andrea Murray – England Women team manager.
They judged players against the following criteria:
- A player who has made a significant impact on the season
- A player who has made a significant contribution to the success of her team
- Player judged to have made a significant improvement in own player performance over the season.
- Player who has demonstrated a positive attitude and commitment towards professional behaviours and the players’ code of conduct.