Number one: Caitlin received her international shirt ahead of the PNG test from the RFL's rugby director Kevin Sinfield
SHE’S won a league and cup double, represented her country on the world stage and been treated like a ‘god’ ... all at the age of 18.
No wonder, then, that one of the most recognisable faces of the burgeoning women’s rugby league’s scene was last week in the frame to be named Young Sports Personality of the Year.
Caitlin Beevers was named as one of the top 10 rising sports talents of 2019 by the BBC, and while the Dewsbury teenager ultimately missed out on the prize at Sunday’s Radio 1 Teen Awards, the nomination nevertheless put an exclamation point on a stellar season.
Beevers was “gobsmacked” to learn she had been shortlisted during a stop-over in Abu Dhabi last Tuesday, while on the way home from the England Women’s groundbreaking tour of Papua New Guinea.
“I’m privileged to be part of such a selection, it’s not something I’d ever have thought about,” she said after arriving back in the UK.
It’s been a remarkable 2019 for Caitlin: in July she was a try-scorer in Leeds’ 16-10 Challenge Cup final win over Castleford in the first of a BBC-televised triple-header at Bolton.
She then celebrated her 18th birthday by completing the double as the Rhinos again beat the Tigers, 20-12, at St Helens’ Totally Wicked Stadium in the first ever women’s game shown live on Sky Sports.
The following day she was on a plane Down Under to compete at the inaugural World Cup Nines in Sydney, scoring the opening try of the women’s tournament in a 25-4 win over Papua New Guinea.
Beevers then returned to the Southern Hemisphere in November for a two-test tour of PNG, playing in game two of the drawn series.
“The two tours with England have been a massive highlight and a definite eye-opener, I’ve got memories for life with the girls,” she says.
“When we walked out of the airport there were Mudmen (men in tribal costume and masks of mud) all around with wooden swords and bows and arrows,” recalls Caitlin. “One of them pointed at me ... I was scared for my life!
“I didn’t expect it to be like that. Rugby league is their national sport and that was very evident. They didn’t care if you were male or female, or what country you were from, if you played rugby at a decent level you were seen as celebrities, as gods.
“We were getting followed about, people wanted to spend time with us just because we played rugby.
“They gave us exactly the same reception as the men and I think that’s amazing. It was lovely to be a part of and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.”
Beevers achieved another feat on tour; she and her international teammates became professional rugby league players, with each member of the Nines squad paid $2,000, but for now the stars of the Women’s Super League remain amateurs.
Caitlin is currently at college studying sports and exercise science and has ambitions to go on to university next year, but the time will come when she has to put money first. Luckily she also has a fallback option for a career in the game she loves – refereeing.
Beevers has already blown her whistle at Wembley, handling the 2018 Champion Schools Year 7 Boys Final, and this year officiated matches in the Yorkshire Men’s League and the NCL for the first time. She was also one of the touch judges for the Academy Grand Final.
Ironically given the current growth spurt for the women’s game, she actually only took up the whistle because she couldn’t get a game anywhere.
“I played at Birstall Victoria with my twin brother (Joshua) until I was 11 and then I had to go to a girls’ team,” explains Caitlin, who would continue her junior development at Dewsbury Moor – but not before a 12-month hiatus.
“It was hard finding a girls’ team back then, there weren’t many around, so I had a to take a gap year from playing.
“So I took up refereeing – it was only supposed to be for a year until I found a team, but then I didn’t end up dropping it.
“It wasn’t something I’d ever have thought I’d do, it was just something to keep me occupied and keep me in the game, but I’d definitely say it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.”
International teammate Tara Jones has already been spotted running the touchlines in Super League, so does Caitlin fancy a career as a full-time ref?
“I wouldn’t mind that. I really enjoy refereeing and if I did get that opportunity I’d probably grab it with both hands.”
But, for now, she retains ambitions of being a playing star – and there’s plenty to be excited about. As well as a title defence with the Rhinos to
consider, the ultimate showcase of the 2021 World Cup is beginning to loom large on the horizon.
“We’ve got a lot of players like myself who are only 18, 19 or in their early 20s. By 2021 we’ll have had some experience in the international game and hopefully it’ll all come together.”