LEEDS RHINOS star forward Bethan Dainton is trying not to get too carried away ahead of what is a milestone day for Women’s Rugby League on Saturday as her side takes on St Helens at Wembley Stadium (kick-off 11.50am).
The game’s leading female players will run out at Wembley Stadium for the first time ever on Saturday, making history in the process.
It’s the first time that Women’s Rugby League will be played at Wembley, and if selected, Dainton will be the first Welsh international to appear in the Women’s Challenge Cup Final (Wales have had one female Challenge Cup winner in Jodie Boyd-Ward who has won that trophy with Leeds Rhinos in the Wheelchair game). Dainton has previous experience of playing in such a stadium having turned out for the Barbarians at Twickenham in 2021.
Dainton, a serving soldier in the British Army, will be aiming to stay focused on the job in hand while trying not to get caught up in the occasion. The Rhinos already have one piece of silverware to their name this year having secured the Women’s Rugby League Nines in late June, but Dainton knows her side will have to put in their best performance of the season so far if they are to reclaim the trophy they last won in 2019.
Speaking to Lorraine Marsden in Rugby Leaguer and League Express, she said: “This is the big one, this is the one we all want to win, but we all know that anything can happen in Rugby League and that showed in the semi-finals when it was a really close against Wigan. When we’d played them in the league earlier in the year it was a completely different story, so we can’t take anything for granted.
“We just need to go out there and think about us, what we have to do, and not get too caught up with the opposition or the occasion. “We just need to go out there and try to put in an 80-minute performance, because we have struggled with that at times this year.
“Saints are a class outfit so we know it’s going to be tough. When we played them at Headingley in the league, we were far from our best and didn’t really turn up, so we know we’re going to have to be on it from the off.
“If we stay focused on ourselves it could come down to who turns up on the day and who deals with the occasion better.
“It’s going to be a huge occasion and it hasn’t really sunk in yet that we’re going to be playing at Wembley. Until we turn up there and see it, I’m not sure it will do.”
An appearance at Wembley will be the icing on the cake for Dainton, who might not have had this opportunity it wasn’t for the Army allowing her to move up north to focus on her game.
Having previously played the 15-a-side code, Dainton got her first taste of league action with the Army in Super League South in 2021 and hasn’t looked back since.
“Usually I am based down in Salisbury, but the Army are letting me focus on rugby so they got me a room up at Catterick,” explained Dainton, who could become the first Welsh player to win the Women’s Challenge Cup.
“The support I have had from them has been unreal and the switch to League has been awesome. The game is just so relentless and non-stop, which is what I love about it.
“It has been a steep learning curve for me, but playing in Super League South made me want to see if I could compete higher and perform at that level. I’m doing that now and I am really enjoying myself.”
Most of this article appeared first in Rugby Leaguer and League Express, dated 07/08/2023. Printed here with permission. To buy a copy, please go to totalrl.com/shop
Picture by Olly Hassell/SWpix.com – 23/07/2023 – Rugby League – Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Semi Final – Wigan Warriors v Leeds Rhinos – Headingley Stadium, Leeds, England – Leeds’ Bethan Dainton being tackled by Wigan’s Cerys Jones