The Betfred Women’s Super League will kick-off on April 18 with 10 teams, more than 18 months since it last saw action.
Almost the entire women’s rugby league season in 2020 was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic and its return is long overdue.
Reigning champions Leeds, who beat Castleford in the Grand Final on October 11, 2019 in what was the last top flight women’s fixture in the UK – will start their defence against York on Sunday April 18.
Warrington and Huddersfield are the two new clubs joining the competition, some 12 months later than planned, with the Wolves taking on Wigan in the opening round.
The first 10 rounds of the Women’s Super League season, as well as the early rounds of the Challenge Cup, will be played behind closed doors at two central venues – Victoria Park in Warrington and Sports Park Westwood in Leeds.
The top four teams at that point will qualify for the Play-Offs, starting in August when it is hoped crowds will be allowed, with the teams playing each other home and away for an additional six rounds of fixtures – at which point the top two qualify for the Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final.
The other six teams will play each other once in a Shield competition, with the top four in that mini-table qualifying for Shield semi finals leading to a BWSL Shield Final.
The season structure also includes a two-match Origin series scheduled for July 27 and August 7, again to aid England’s World Cup preparations – which have continued through the winter with regular squad sessions at Sports Park Weetwood.
Thomas Brindle, the General Manager of the BWSL, said: “It has been a long wait, but this will be worth waiting for. 2021 is such a huge year for Women’s Rugby League in this country, with a home World Cup to anticipate, that it’s essential for the Betfred Women’s Super League to resume.
“The players, clubs and Foundations have worked extremely hard to get us to this point, and we appreciate the continued support of DCMS and Sport England.
“We saw such great progress in 2019, with Castleford leading the way in attendances and for results in the regular season, only to lose out twice to Leeds in two memorable occasions, as we attracted title sponsors for the Women’s Challenge Cup and Women’s Super League for the first time, and unprecedented coverage of both games on the BBC and Sky Sports respectively.
“We were excited about our expansion to 10 clubs, and I know that both Huddersfield and Warrington will be especially keen to get going after having to wait 12 months longer than they planned or expected.”
Betfred Women’s Super League, opening fixtures (Sunday April 18):
Bradford Bulls v St Helens, Wigan Warriors v Warrington Wolves (both at Victoria Park, Warrington); Castleford Tigers v Featherstone Rovers, Leeds Rhinos v York City Knights (both at Westwood, Leeds).
Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup, preliminary round (Sunday April 25):
Huddersfield Giants v Warrington Wolves, York City Knights v Wakefield Trinity.
The full fixture list for the Betfred Women’s Super League 2021, the venue for the Grand Final, and the full schedule for the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup, will be published shortly as well as further details of Our League coverage of the competition.
The Women’s Championship and League 1 return as grassroots Rugby League alongside the girls’ competitions, with training due to commence from Monday 29 March.