24th May 2019, 11:52 | ChallengeCup
The Armed Forces will feature prominently in this weekend’s Second Round ties in the Coral Women’s Challenge Cup.
The RAF face Bradford Bulls in Lincoln, while the Army have an even more daunting task against the inaugural Women’s Super League champions Wigan Warriors – a game that will be played in Coventry on Sunday.
But Staff Sergeant Warren Broadley, a former player with Swindon St George among others who now coaches the Army team, says his players are relishing the challenge – helped by the experience of playing against Leeds Rhinos in the quarter finals last season.
“I have mixed feelings really,” said SSgt Broadley. “We know it will be an extremely difficult fixture, but one we will relish as the underdogs. We took much confidence from last year’s fixture against Leeds Rhinos. If the girls turn up with the right attitude, a willingness to put the effort in at training and we perform on the day, we can compete with anyone.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary since Rugby League was officially recognised in the Armed Forces – an anniversary that will be marked on Coral Challenge Cup and 1895 Cup day at Wembley in August.
But it was more than a decade later, in 2008, that the Army’s Women’s Rugby League team was founded, to compete in the first ever Women's Rugby League Interservices competition.
As with men’s Rugby League in the Forces, the sport was seen as ideal in aiming to grow the sport within the military and to use it as good decompression when conflicts around the World were coming to a close.
They first entered the Women’s Challenge Cup in 2016, reaching the semi finals, and in 2017 the Army Ladies reached the Challenge Shield Final.
Last year, in addition to competing well for 60 minutes against the eventual winners Leeds, The Army finished the season off by winning a 10th straight Interservices trophy against the RAF and Navy.
Unlike many of the other Women’s Rugby League teams in the UK, the Armed Forces find that training can be very sporadic due to commitments and restraints of the Military always needing to be ready to deploy anywhere in the World.
“In the two years I've been Head Coach I've never fielded the same starting 13 twice,” added SSgt Broadley. “It’s not ideal as we have no consistency, but the girls bond incredibly well and quickly, so we hardly notice if they've just come into the set-up or have been a part of it for the last two years.
“Within the three or four days of training we manage to get four to five sessions in, which includes Whiteboard Sessions, Strength & Conditioning and sessions out on the pitch.”
Staff Sergeant Broadley also explains how the physical impact of Rugby League differs to the physical impact of military training: “As far as confidence and determination goes it is a great help, very rarely do we have a new player who isn’t scared to get stuck in straight away.
“As far as the fitness goes it’s a totally different type of fitness to what we do in the Military. We carry lots of weight on our back for long distances, whereas in Rugby League it uses different types of muscles and after a couple of days training that becomes evident as the ladies start to ache and carry knocks.”