While 2018 has been a dismal season for Leeds’s men’s team, the club’s newly-formed women’s side have swept all before them.
Coached by Cuthbertson, they will face Wigan Warriors at Manchester Regional Arena today in the Women’s Super League Grand Final having already won the Challenge Cup and finished top of the league.
Wigan, the opponents when Rhinos’ men completed the final leg of their treble three years and three days ago, inflicted one of Leeds women’s two defeats this season, but have lost to Rhinos twice and finished one point adrift on the league ladder.
The tie is a showpiece occasion for the women’s game, which has made rapid strides since the Super League competition began last year.
Leeds, in their first season, have set new standards on and off the field despite several of their team being new to the sport.
Winger Suze Hill, who has scored 13 tries in 16 appearances, had never played rugby league before attending trials in the close-season.
Similarly, goalkicking half-back Courtney Hill, who is no relation, was a highly-rated cricketer in her native Australia before moving to England at the start of this season.
Other players, including star duo Lois Forsell and Danika Priim, who will both miss the final due to anterior cruciate ligament injuries, were recruited from last year’s top team Bradford Bulls.
Among players brought in from the second tier women’s Championship was former Oulton Raidettes front-row Danielle Anderson.
Set to earn her first cap when England play a Test in France at the end of this month, Anderson believes the involvement of a club like Leeds has raised the bar for the women’s game.
“We get treated just like the men,” said Anderson. “We get the same physio, the same training facilities.
“For away games we get the first team bus and that’s really special, we do feel quite proud of that. When I played for Oulton in the Championship that was a really good team, but Leeds has been that step higher.
“They help us and expect more from us as well.
“We get everything provided for us and they expect us to behave like professionals.
“It is professional, we just don’t get paid for it.”
Cuthbertson had no coaching experience before this year, but his guidance has also been integral to Rhinos’ success, acknowledges Anderson.
She said: “It is great having Cuthbo on board. He is a major player in Super League so him being able to put time and effort into the women’s side is great and we really appreciate it.
“It would be great to finish off the season doing the treble for him and also the other coaching staff, to show that all the hard work they have put into us has paid off.”
Leeds have already proved they are capable of dealing with the big occasion, having beaten Castleford Tigers in the Challenge Cup final at Warrington’s HJ Stadium two months ago.
That experience will stand them in good stead this afternoon, but Anderson, scorer of five tries in 17 appearances this term, is wary of the threat Wigan will pose.
“Our games against them this year could have gone either way,” recalled Anderson.
“Obviously we have got the double and to win the treble would finish off a perfect season for us.
“At the start of the year when we all got together we put some goals down that we wanted to achieve. At first we didn’t expect to do so well with being a brand-new team, but everybody has fitted in and it has worked out well.”
Rhinos will start today’s game as narrow favourites, but Anderson stressed: “We aren’t putting a lot of pressure on ourselves. We will just play like we know we can and like the Leeds Rhinos’ women’s team do and, hopefully, the outcome will be what we want.”
England under-performed in last year’s World Cup, losing three of their four matches. The rebuilding process begins this month and Anderson said: “I can’t wait for it, it feels like it has been a long time coming.
“I’ve always wanted to be in the England squad, I have dreamed of it and now I am getting the chance to go out and show what I can do.”