Watch - Gareth Ellis: Women have always played a part off the pitch, so why not on it?

Leeds Rhinos and England player Lois Forsell
Leeds Rhinos and England player Lois Forsell
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I ONLY have to look at my Aunty Joyce to know how passionate women can be about rugby league.

She is the biggest Castleford Tigers fan going and as fervent as anyone when it comes to them and the sport.

In fact, she gets so passionate, it got to the point where she found it difficult to watch when I played against them as it just meant that much to her.

There’s always been plenty of women involved in rugby league and there’s always been women there to support while the blokes have been playing.

When you go to most amateur teams often it’s women who are pulling all the strings and making sure things tick over.

So it’s only right that things are changing and they are now getting chance to pull on the boots as well and show what they can do on the field too.

It’s great to see the RFL’s new ‘21 by 21’ campaign to increase participation levels.

It was announced at Saturday’s Women’s Season Launch that they aim to get 21,000 women and girls playing rugby league by 2021.

It is a big number but the way the sport is going it very much has the potential to achieve that number.

At my club Hull FC, we launched a women’s team last year and it has already grown, pretty rapidly, in a short space of time.

That can be said about women’s sport in general; it’s always been there but particularly with football - and now rugby - it’s certainly getting more attention, more media profile and that’s right across the world,

Rightly so, too. Hopefully the success will continue.

With the mindset switching a little bit towards women’s sport and the column inches its getting in the press and the attention it’s getting on TV as well, why not?

We’ve seen women pundits on Match Of The Day while Sky Sports have done likewise recently.

England international Lois Forsell, from Leeds Rhinos, was on for the satellite broadcaster’s live coverage of the Leeds versus Castleford Tigers derby game last Thursday night and it’s encouraging to see the sport branching out in this manner in the media.

The women’s season kicks-off this Sunday with games at Wigan Warriors, Bradford Bulls, Leeds – who have a derby against another of my old clubs Wakefield Trinity – and York City Knights in Super League as well as Barrow Raiders, Hull, Oulton and Widnes the tier below.

There’s plenty of places to watch games and get involved this season.

Hopefully there’ll be more clubs and more players to follow between now and 2021 to help drive those numbers up and reach those targets.