Rugby league is ‘absolutely growing’ in London but the sport needs more ‘exposure’, according to London Broncos Ladies captain Courtney Treco.
The team made history a fortnight ago as they powered to the Women’s Super League South title with a 22-10 victory over Cardiff Demons in the Grand Final.
Broncos, who established a women’s team back in 2021, earned retribution from the 2022 showpiece which saw them lose to the Welsh outfit.
Team captain Treco was thrilled with the win but admits this is only the ‘beginning’ for her side.
She told Love Rugby League: “It’s unreal at times. I still haven’t really grasped what happened in the Grand Final.
“Going through the emotions of being like ‘wow, we really did do that’. Three years only as a team and we’ve finally won that cup.
“Obviously, that’s just the beginning. I think we have so much more to do at this point and it’s really exciting.”
Treco comes from the Bahamas and boasts a union background having started her rugby journey in the United States back in 2011. She later moved to Brighton where the Sussex Marlins gave her the first taste of rugby league.
The 29-year-old has been with the London Broncos from the inaugural WSLS season in 2021 and continues to balance her league career with union duties for Richmond Rugby.
Is rugby league growing in London?
Treco admitted the sport is growing in the English capital, with young players looking to take the opportunity to play rugby league.
She said: “It’s absolutely growing. There’s still definitely room to grow because we want this to be a sport that flourishes in the capital.
“But from when we first played, people batted their eyes ‘oh, you’re playing rugby league, why are you doing that?’. Now we have friends and family rushing down to our games, watching the live streams, being like ‘I have to watch this, I have to be a part of this’.
“It’s been great from a player perspective. We’ve gone from our first game we ever played, we had 14 players and went down to 13 within the first 10 minutes or so due to an injury.
“Now, we’re recruiting players from clubs around the south. We had a girl step up from Brighton, she’s a 17-year-old. She’s been coming training with us through a development programme we were running, and we were like ‘you are good enough to be in this team, play for us’.
“It shows that we can recruit younger players because you’re seeing the growth pop up with teams like Elmbridge Eagles, you’ve got Brentwood, you’ve got Brighton.
“They’re all starting to grow these teams that are wanting to get involved, play at a higher level and take the opportunity to play rugby league. That is really exciting.”
What’s next for rugby league in London?
Treco believes the sport needs more exposure in order to speed up its popularity in London.
The Broncos captain believes bringing more high-profile fixtures – such as the women’s Challenge Cup final which took place at Wembley stadium last month – could further elevate that growth.
“I think there just needs to be more exposure, getting it into schools, making sure it’s successful on television, bringing high profile games down to London,” said Treco.
“All of those things get people’s interest and make people think ‘I don’t have to go up North to watch rugby league, it’s on my front doorstep and I want to be a part of it’.
“This last Challenge Cup final, I had so many of my union friends and non-rugby friends who went to that final. Which was different compared to previous years where it was just a handful of us involved with Broncos who were going.
“Everyone was like ‘I’m going this weekend, I’m picking it over the union game that’s happening at Twickenham’. It’s making it that it’s there so that people can go and watch it if they want to.”
Can London compete with Women’s Super League clubs?
London Broncos Ladies got their first taste of elite women’s rugby league action during this year’s Challenge Cup.
During the group stage, the team suffered a 76-0 defeat to St Helens and a 64-10 loss to the Warrington Wolves before bouncing back with a historic 40-4 win over 2018 and 2019 finalists Castleford Tigers.
“The fact we got to take on some of those [WSL] teams this year was super exciting,” added Treco.
“Our first time ever getting a chance to do it. It was definitely an eye opener in terms of the level we’d like to get to. But that’s what you want so you know what you’re working towards.
“We want to be a part of those leagues, we want to be able to compete with them, we’ve definitely paid attention.
“The likes of York and the amount of investment they’re putting into their women’s team, it’s so exciting to see because it shows that there is a place to grow in women’s rugby league.
“That is a way of growing your club as a whole and supporting that means you’re supporting the overall growth of the game for men, women, children, whatever it may be. There’s an opportunity there.”