Winfield-Hill Aiming To Join The List Of Elland Road's Sporting Heroics

The Leeds Rhinos half-back is hoping to halt St Helens' recent dominant run
07:47, 06 May 2022

Courtney Winfield-Hill has excelled at both cricket and rugby league, and the Leeds Rhinos captain now hopes the city’s iconic football ground can inspire her side to topple mighty St Helens.

The two heavyweights of women’s rugby league lock horns again this weekend in the Betfred Challenge Cup final as part of a triple-header with the men’s semi-finals at Elland Road.

All-conquering Saints are the big favourites having swept the board last season, but Winfield-Hill has told The Sportsman that the Rhinos can channel the fighting spirit of Leeds United to knock Saints off their perch on home soil.

“It’s not our home ground but it's close enough,” the Australian-born half-back told The Sportsman. “It’s a really special, incredibly iconic ground and we know there has been some terrific rugby league games here too. We are privileged to be able to put the women’s rugby league stamp in the history here at Elland Road."

A stadium that has hosted memorable Test matches and World Club Challenges, Elland Road takes a pause from Leeds United’s relegation dogfight to showcase the very best of British rugby league.

Bitter rivals in the men’s game St Helens and Wigan Warriors will go at it, while dark horses Huddersfield Giants and Hull Kingston Rovers contest the other semi. The prelude to that is Winfield-Hill’s Rhinos having their latest crack at stopping another Saints clean sweep.

“They knocked us out in 2021 so we will come in all guns blazing and are really pumped for the occasion, we are ready,” she promises. “This is the first chance of silverware so we want to take it with both hands. But it is an incredibly long year and a big year for World Cup year.”

The likelihood is that 35-year-old Winfield-Hill will turn out for adopted nation England in the World Cup, having been alerted to her potential availability by Leeds legend Kevin Sinfield. 

Having played cricket at the top level for Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash before switching to rugby league on her arrival in the UK, Winfield-Hill has enjoyed great success, leading Leeds to back-to-back Challenge Cup wins in their first two seasons in 2018 and 2019, and being crowned Woman of Steel. 

The postponement of last year’s World Cup to this autumn means she now qualifies on residency rules, opening up the prospect of a home World Cup selection.

“I have a lot of learning to do, a lot of good performances with the Rhinos before I think too far ahead to the World Cup,” she says. “If performances put my name in the mix with England I’ll be stoked. It would be enormous."

A proud Aussie, Winfield-Hill admits she thought long and hard about playing rugby league for England, discussing the prospect at length with her wife Lauren Winfield-Hill, the Yorkshire and England cricketer.

“I have been here five years now and it feels like my rugby league home. It’s where I’ve invested in the sport and the sport has invested in me, I have some terrific people around me here so it would be a proud occasion if that was to happen.”

This weekend’s priority though is working out how to stop the St Helens juggernaut. And Winfield-Hill insists a raucous Elland Road could play a huge part.

“I’m not getting any younger so you don’t take finals for granted. Hopefully we can get a lot of people in and create a really cool atmosphere. Obviously we love playing so I just hope there are plenty of people in to enjoy it live.”

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