Leeds and England whore Keara Bennett says her sport must seize the moment and capitalize on a landmark World Cup campaign when the new Betfred Women’s Super League season kicks off on Easter.
Bennett appeared in all five matches as England reached the semi-finals where they were defeated by New Zealand in front of almost 7,139 fans in York.
England’s performances sparked interest in the fully professional Australian NRLW, with many players, including Bennett Rhinos’ teammates Georgia Roche and Fran Goldthorp, linked to Down Under’s opportunities.
And with both Rhinos and the newly renamed York Valkyrie announcing that they’ll be paying players win bonuses for the first time in 2023, Bennett believes the home game’s future looks bright.
“Obviously, the World Cup has been extremely important in terms of attracting so many new fans and media to the sport, and that’s something we can build on,” Bennett told the PA news agency.
“The introduction of the win bonus will also make things easier and show that the game is moving in the right direction, although I don’t think it will change the effort we have already put into the game.”
Bennett’s Rhinos will kick off the season with a repeat of last year’s Grand Final triumph against York in Headingley on April 9 before the Rhinos’ men take on Huddersfield.
It remains to be seen if the Rhinos will boast the likes of Roche and Goldthorp, and the moment when the first major domestic star agrees to a deal in Australia is clearly not far away.
“The standards over there are out of this world, but I don’t think we’re far off,” said Bennett, a full-time sports science student at Leeds Beckett University who made her Rhinos debut in 2019 and was integral to two consecutive Grand Final victories .
“Having teams from the NRL and talking to English players gives everyone motivation and the sooner some of our players are put on the NRL it will be of great benefit.
“If there is an opportunity for either of the girls, it will be a great opportunity, but we also need to find a balance in building competition here.
“For the 2025 World Cup, we want to get to the same level as Australia and New Zealand.”