The rugby girls in a league of their own
Georgia Houghton is still a newcomer to rugby league, but the 12-year-old from St Helens is already plotting a future as a professional player.
Ask her if she wants to play for The Saints, the formidable women’s team at local Super League club St Helens RFC, and she doesn’t hesitate. She said, “Definitely! They’ve grown so much over the past year. They’ve got to the level where they’re so popular.”
Georgia’s favourite player is Saints star and England international Jodie Cunningham. She said, “Jodie’s got a really good spirit and really loves the game.”
The same could be said for Georgia and her 13-year-old brother Aiden. When they’re not cheering on The Saints in the company of their mum, Julie, they’re playing the game themselves at their local club Pilkington Recs ARLFC.
Thanks to funding made possible by National Lottery players, Pilkington Recs has been able to create both an Under 12 girls team and an Under 14 girls team in the past 12 months. John Rees, the club’s junior secretary, said the funding has paid for balls, first aid kits, tackle shields (the large pads allowing players to refine their tackling skills) and playing kit.
John said, “The National Lottery funding was massively important. As a club we rely 100 percent on member subscriptions and fundraisers – every penny we get in we’ve had to fight for. The cost of rugby league equipment has become quite challenging so The National Lottery has let us acquire good solid equipment and deliver a great programme to these kids.”
Prior to 2021, Pilkington Recs’ young female players were limited to playing for mixed teams made up of girls and boys. Mixed teams tend to end when children are old enough to go to high school, so at that point many girls tend to drift away from the club or the sport.
Now, there’s no chance of Georgia or her teammates hanging up their boots. She loves the game – “You don’t think about anything else when you’re playing!” – and is excited the upcoming Rugby League World Cup will feature men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams playing at venues across the UK.
Julie Houghton said she has noticed a “massive shift” in the profile of women’s rugby league in recent times. She said, “Some of it is down to the fact the women’s game is becoming more popular and being shown on TV. When Georgia said she wanted to play it was partly because The Saints women’s team won everything last year.”
£9.3Million to support Rugby League over the next five years, thanks to National Lottery players.
10th October 2022
The National Lottery has been changing the lives of winners and supporting good causes across the UK since 1994. In that time, there have been more than 7,000 new millionaires created and by playing The National Lottery you raise over £30 million for good causes every week.Discover more