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Rugby league stars hail National Lottery impact on women’s game

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Women's Rugby League legends Rebecca Stevens and Jane Banks join the children of Haydock ARLFC on the morning of the Women's Semi-Finals to celebrate the National Lottery's support of rugby league at Haydock ARLFC on November 14, 2022 in St Helens , England.  (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images for the National Lottery)

Women’s Rugby League legends Rebecca Stevens and Jane Banks join the children of Haydock ARLFC on the morning of the Women’s Semi-Finals to celebrate the National Lottery’s support of rugby league at Haydock ARLFC on November 14, 2022 in St Helens , in England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images for the National Lottery)

Former GB Rugby League internationals Rebecca Stevens and Jane Banks have hailed the impact of National Lottery funding on the growth of women’s football after visiting Haydock ARLFC.

Stevens, who played Rugby League internationally including the 1998 tour of New Zealand, the UK World Series in 2000 and the 2002 tour of Australia, witnessed how funding makes a difference at local level.

While almost half of England’s women’s squad at this year’s Rugby League World Cup hail from or started in St Helen’s, legends Stevens and Banks traveled to Haydock ARLFC to take part in a workout with the next generation of stars.

Thanks to National Lottery players, there is a significant investment of over £9.3million to support the development of rugby league across the country between 2022 and 2027.

Haydock ARLFC has been one of the beneficiaries of this investment, spending its share of the funding on new kits, equipment and improved facilities.

Women's Rugby League legends Rebecca Stevens and Jane Banks join the children of Haydock ARLFC on the morning of the Women's Semi-Finals to celebrate the National Lottery's support of rugby league at Haydock ARLFC on November 14, 2022 in St Helens , England.  (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images for the National Lottery)

Women’s Rugby League legends Rebecca Stevens and Jane Banks join the children of Haydock ARLFC on the morning of the Women’s Semi-Finals to celebrate the National Lottery’s support of rugby league at Haydock ARLFC on November 14, 2022 in St Helens , in England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images for the National Lottery)

And Stevens was thrilled to see how much the game had changed since she started playing.

She said: “At the time, we were trying to get the girls to play, we were trying to build a team.

“It was really difficult to attract girls to the sport.

“I feel really humbled when I see so many girls in their rugby kits, getting ready to go kick the ball.

“So to think that we’ve been a small part of that path, a small part of growing the game, to see that is fantastic. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see it.

“It bodes very well for the future; these girls will be contenders for England shirts at the next World Cups.

“The National Lottery has invested in grassroots gaming across the country, and the club here has received a grant that is going to be amazing.

“About half the players in the England squad are either from St Helens or have a connection here, so it’s fantastic to be here and see how this funding is impacting people at this level.

“It’s a sport that really needs this funding, especially in women’s and women’s football.”

England will face New Zealand in the semi-finals of the 2021 World Cup in the hope of becoming the first team from the northern hemisphere to reach the final since 2000.

National Lottery players were key to keeping the game alive, stepping in to provide the support needed to restart the Women’s Super League after the pandemic.

And Banks, who is a former international, reinforced the importance of funding for the growth of women’s rugby league after hosting a mini-session with the Haydock ARLFC girls.

Women's Rugby League legends Rebecca Stevens and Jane Banks join the children of Haydock ARLFC on the morning of the Women's Semi-Finals to celebrate the National Lottery's support of rugby league at Haydock ARLFC on November 14, 2022 in St Helens , England.  (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images for the National Lottery)

Women’s Rugby League legends Rebecca Stevens and Jane Banks join the children of Haydock ARLFC on the morning of the Women’s Semi-Finals to celebrate the National Lottery’s support of rugby league at Haydock ARLFC on November 14, 2022 in St Helens , in England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images for the National Lottery)

She added: “The National Lottery has invested a lot of money in the facilities here in Haydock.

“It’s really good to see that the women’s rugby league has this support.

“If it hadn’t been for the people playing the National Lottery and buying their tickets during the pandemic, women’s rugby league might not have survived.

“So it’s a huge support from a financial point of view.

“Hopefully some of these girls can get into a future England team.

“The World Cup has been huge; it shows what women’s rugby league can do.”

The National Lottery is an Official Partner of the Rugby World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021). As part of this, they have provided financial support to clubs and communities across England through the RLWC2021 CreatedBy grants scheme, contributing over £750,000.

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