Women’s International develops children’s rugby in South Leeds schools


The development of the boys and girls Rugby League in South Leeds schools is being spearheaded by local lass Lois Forsell.

Lois Forsell in action for England
Photo: Vaughn Ridley / swpix.com

Lois is a young woman with experience and knowledge beyond her years. She plays hooker for Bradford Clayton Thunderbirds, she is an England Women’s International and was a member of this year’s World Cup squad. Her day job is as the South Leeds Development Officer for Hunslet Hawks RL Club, based at John Charles Centre for Sport. This post comes under the umbrella of Leeds Rugby Foundation, a partnership between Hunslet Hawks and Leeds Rhinos.

Lois is responsible for developing rugby with children who live in the South Leeds area. She feels her role provides an ideal opportunity to engage children at a young age to play rugby as a way of providing them with a positive outlet for their energy and to keep fit and healthy.

Her role involves developing girls’ interest in playing rugby league – working in After School Clubs; organising girls rugby competitions; delivering Tag Rugby in primary schools and Touch and Contact rugby in high schools; summer camps. She also refers children on to local Rugby clubs and she supports the Hunslet Hawks matches with children involved in pre-game and half time activities.

Another aspect of her role is to organise community events to raise the profile of rugby in South Leeds, so she’s keen to promote the Family Day at South Leeds Academy that marks the start of the Rugby League World Cup.

The event, on Saturday 26th October, will feature inflatables, face painting, refreshments, Tag Rugby and at 2.30pm there will be a showing of the England versus Australia match live from Cardiff. You can find more details here.

Early years

Lois’ rugby career started by accident at the age of 7 when the coach of her brother’s rugby club asked her to fill in as they were a player short. From that day on it was rugby rather than football for Lois. At school Lois played all sports encouraged by her PE teacher: Tennis, Netball, Football, Cross Country Running, and Athletics.

Her first club was East Leeds Women’s based in Richmond Hill. Lois said:

“As a young girl she was a bit of a ‘tom boy’, so I enjoyed the physical contact, the tackling and didn’t mind getting muddy.”

The fact that all her family are Rugby League fans means they have fully supported her love for the game throughout her career. Lois used to play for Hunslet Hawks, before going on to play for Bradford Clayton Thunderbirds. On the pitch she plays as a ‘Hooker’ or ‘Active Half’ as she prefers to call it, especially when working with school pupils. She made her first appearance for the England Women’s squad at the tender age of 17 years old.

Women’s Rugby League World Cup 2013

The New Zealand Kiwis women’s team have been world champions “forever”, but this year they lost their crown to Australian’s (nicknamed the ‘Jillaroos’) in the world cup final. Lois feels the fact that the Kiwis met England in the semi-finals was partly the reason why they lost.

The memories of England being beaten convincingly in 2009 by the Kiwis, had encouraged the British lasses to up their training regime to make the women stronger, quicker and fitter. Even though England lost against the Kiwis, it was a hard fought match, and this left the Kiwis slightly under par for final against Australia.

Highs and lows

The proudest moment of Lois’s career was when she got her first cap, when she put on the England shirt for the first time aged 17, in New Zealand. But the enormity of the occasion didn’t really hit her until she was on the pitch with her teammates singing the national anthem.

“Representing your country is a proud moment.”

Her second proudest moment was being able to play in the 2013 World Cup on home soil with her family and friends there to cheer her on.

Girls rugby 1
Girls rugby at South Leeds Stadium


Her low point came twelve months earlier. Lois was gutted not to have made the England squad at 16 years old, as she felt her progress at this age warranted a call up. She didn’t let that deterred her, but worked even harder at her game.

After a day in a tracksuit or playing rugby, Lois can’t wait to wear more feminine clothes. She likes desserts, favourite films are comedies like ‘White Chicks’, she doesn’t do to Karaoke, watches sports like football, netball, athletics on TV, she likes Britain’s Got Talent, Corrie and has seen a lot of live comedians such as Jack Whitehall.

The infrastructure for the development of the girls and women’s rugby in England, is not as strong as the boy’s and men’s game. This is, of course, a common theme among the other Rugby playing nations and sport in general. The employment of International players like Lois in the role she performs, is a step in the right direction. As she represents the hopes and aspirations of future generations of girls and young women, who like Lois, strive to wear the England shirt with pride and endeavour to make the national team number one in the world.

Lois is an impressive young woman and a great ambassador for her club, her country and for South Leeds.

Contact Lois at the Hunslet Hawks: 0113 271 2730 or email: lois.forsell@hawksrl.com.