Local rugby player Caitlin Beevers has certainly had a week to remember – scoring a try last Saturday as she won the Women’s Challenge Cup, and learning that she will officiate in a fortnight’s time at Wembley.
At just 16 years of age, the St John Fisher pupil was part of the Leeds Rhinos side that defeated Castleford Tigers 20-14 to win the trophy in Warrington, and she said the experience was “absolutely amazing”.
“It was great,” Caitlin said. “This is my first season at open age so I’m privileged to play a final as big as that, and it was amazing to experience that with all my team-mates."
She described the elation of scoring a try in such a big game, saying that “it was absolutely amazing getting everyone to run and jump on you with excitement."
She added: “But in the end I wouldn’t have got there without my teammates getting me up the field and giving me the opportunity to do things like that.
“It was a very tough game and we knew Cas were going to bring it all out as they always do, but I think we worked hard enough in the end.”
She started playing rugby at the age of six, and says that she never expected to get so far and so quickly.
“I played at Birstall Victoria boys’ under 7s. As soon as I got to under 12s to play for a girls’ team, that’s when it started really.
“I got into the 19s [at Leeds] and I was the youngest there, so I was absolutely over the moon with the opportunity I was given.
“I never expected to get into the first team, and it was just an amazing feeling that in my first year in open age I got that big an opportunity coming my way, and I was one of the first three to be chosen.”
Caitlin says her natural position is at full-back, but that she has been asked to play in a variety of positions with the Rhinos this year.
“I’ve been moved about quite a lot! I’ve had hooker, winger, centre, loose forward, full-back. I never came into the team expecting to play full-back as we’ve got such an amazing one, Charlotte Booth, but I’m fine with any position I get put at.
“At the end of the day I’m lucky to get in the team, and if they think that might be the best position for me then I’ll take it.”
She is very encouraged by the progress that women’s rugby league is making and she said that is the case at youth levels as well.
“We’ve got loads of girls teams coming through now,” she said. “When I first started, as you can imagine it was very small, and I only found one girl playing in a boys’ team like I did.
“But now you see girls’ games and you see them playing from a young age and it’s amazing to see them starting so young, and I hope that it does become a lot bigger than it is already.”
Winning the Challenge Cup wasn’t the only highlight of her week though – she also learnt that she will appear at Wembley, refereeing the Year 7 National Schools Final.
She said that she was “absolutely over the moon” to be chosen, although she waited a few days to share the news.
“I found out last Thursday I think, but I decided to wait until after the final to promote it as I wanted to focus on that and then focus on the refereeing.”
Caitlin explained how she first got into refereeing at the age of 13.
“Originally I just wanted to do it to help out, because I took a gap year from playing and I wanted to stay in the game and still have a great deal to do with it.
“So I decided to go into refereeing, not expecting to do it that much but now I do it every weekend and I love it.
“I do community games for my society, the NCL every week, under 19s, academy games, and I got my first reserves the other week.”
She had already officiated a national final for Year 8 girls, but will now become the first female to referee any rugby league match at Wembley Stadium on 25th August, in the curtain-raiser to the men’s Challenge Cup final.