History will be made when the Batley Bulldogs’ U15 girls side jet off as the first ever female rugby league team to tour Australia.
The 16-strong side will fly to Queensland on Tuesday after a valiant 11-month fundraising campaign to get the £30,000 to get them there.
Head coach Craig Taylor said: “It seemed a bit of a crazy idea 12 months ago and a lot of people doubted that we would get there – and there was times we have – but we said ‘We can’t let those girls down’. By hook or crook we’ve done it.
“The England ladies go over in 2017 to the World Cup but we’re the first female rugby league team from the Northern Hemisphere going,” said Mr Taylor.
The girls will stay on the Gold Coast during the three-week stay and compete in four games, including those against Australian school champions Merrimac State High, a Sunshine Coast district team and the Ipswich Brothers. Pupils in Australia have 15 hours of rugby league in their syllabus each week, said Mr Taylor.
“The girls are really nervous but really excited – they just can’t wait to play. They’re all as prepared as they can be. They’re very good, we’ve got a really good chance.”
The club’s fundraising efforts have taken the girls and parents up Yorkshire’s Three Peaks, bungee jumping and bag packing in the area’s supermarkets. Of the £63,000 needed for the tour, around £30,000 has been earned through their work and donations.
“It’s been a really quick turnaround,” said Mr Taylor. “It’s been a massive effort from a really small group of parents.” He gave a special mention to Paula Graham, who he said has done a “huge amount”. The club only began three years ago when Mr Taylor, 40, of The Oval in Dewsbury, knew nothing about starting a girl’s team. His daughter Millie and his niece Casey Rhodes were keen to keep playing after becoming too old to compete in mixed gender games. Along with the team’s captain Evie Kilburn and Lily Clark, the side was founded.
Since then, the team has grown to become the RFL Champion of Champions in 2012 and won the RFL U15 girls league last season with an undefeated run.
While on the trip, the girls will take time out to visit tourist attractions, try surfing and sample Australian school life.
Kevin Fegan, of Kirklees arts project Creative Scene, will accompany the team on their tour with the aim of writing a play about their journey.
On Saturday, League legends Francis Cummins and Brian Noble will appear at the Bulldogs’ stadium from 7pm for £10 on the door, which will go towards the girls’ fund. And on Sunday anyone is welcome to wish them good luck at Soothill WMC when a kit presentation will take place from around 6pm.
The team still require donations to help with the costs. To contribute, call Amanda Taylor on 07805041994.