FRESH from an historic treble-winning campaign for Bradford Bulls, Lois Forsell is now looking to help England to World Cup glory and give women’s rugby league another shot in the arm.
It is a sign of the sport’s growing popularity that the ladies national side – who fly out to Australia on November 10 – held a joint-press day with the men’s squad recently while earlier this week Wigan and Widnes became the latest Super League club to announce it is forming a women’s team for 2018.
It is all a far cry from when Forsell, the Leeds-born hooker, first started out at the age of seven.
She is part of a 23-strong England squad that will face Papua New Guinea Orchids, Australian Jillaroos and The Cook Islands in the World Cup, the first time the women’s and men’s competitions have been played concurrently.
Furthermore, the women’s final will act as a curtain-raiser to the men’s showpiece at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on December 2, illustrating just how the sport is now getting far greater profile.
“Women’s sport in general is but rugby league particularly is doing a great job at the minute,” Forsell told The Yorkshire Post.
It’s just getting the message out there to more people as you could be a big rugby fan and love rugby but never hear about the women’s side of it as you don’t go and look for it.Lois Forcell
“The RFL are really pushing it with their media team and getting it out there.
“The wider media have been coming to events so we had quite a lot of press at our Grand Final recently. That’s been fantastic.
“It’s just getting the message out there to more people as you could be a big rugby fan and love rugby but never hear about the women’s side of it as you don’t go and look for it. Now you don’t have to go look for it; I find my friends text me a lot and say ‘you are clogging up my news feeds, you’re all over on Twitter and Facebook!’
“It’s fantastic. It’s just what the game needs. And it was great to see us all aligned together at the England media day.
“As a nation we quite like to think of ourselves as united; that just shows we are – running alongside the men’s competition, all there for the same job and all wanting to bring back a World Cup for England, whether that’s the men’s or women’s.”
Forsell has just helped Bradford to a clean sweep as they defeated Featherstone Rovers in the Grand Final having also beaten the same opponents in the Challenge Cup final at York in July en route to finishing the whole season unbeaten.
Ahead of her fourth World Cup, she explained: “I started out at East Leeds and then moved on to Hunslet – the other side of the river – before I got a call-up for England to go play in New Zealand when I was 17.
“For that I needed to go to a top-tier team and at the time Featherstone Rovers were winning everything week in, week out.
“I thought for a challenge I’d go to Bradford.
“It’s been a big challenge as we haven’t won anything up until this year but now we have managed to win all three of the main trophies and had great support from the Bulls.
“It has been the best season in my career so far playing for Bradford. And hopefully there’s more to come with England.”
Although the 26-year-old plays for Bradford Bulls, she actually works for their old rivals Leeds Rhinos.
“My job (girls rugby league development officer) is developing this side of the sport in Leeds for Leeds Rhinos Foundation,” explained Forsell.
“We can see massive benefits. The girls are loving rugby; they want to get involved.
“I think in five or 10 years’ time it will be absolutely massive.
“Working for Leeds, my hometown club, is my dream job.
“I do absolutely love it although I don’t think my boss was too happy when I said I was signing for Bradford….!
“He wasn’t as unhappy as my dad, though, when I went home and told him. He’s a massive Rhinos fan.
“But he loves it. He came along and was cheering for Bradford in that game against Featherstone which was the first-ever women’s Super League Grand Final.
“It was a great day as it was in Manchester and the same day as the (men’s) Grand Final at Old Trafford.
“Leeds won that so he was buzzing. He got to see both games and was happy to see all the girls do well as we’d all worked hard.”
England must work similarly hard if they are to succeed on the global scene.
“The last World Cup was here in 2013 and that was our best performance,” she added.
“We came third but pushed Australia and New Zealand really, really close.
“I think when we played New Zealand at Featherstone was the time when people came and thought ‘these women mean business, they can play and they’re not too far away from pushing on.’
“We’re going out there to win it. And I think we’ll get there.”