St Helens full-back Rebecca Rotheram lifts the lid on how rugby league has always played a big part in her life; watch the Super League double-header involving St Helens and Leeds Rhinos’ women’s and men’s teams on Thursday live on Sky Sports Arena from 5pm
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 21/06/22 4:56pm
Rebecca Rotheram can barely remember a time when rugby league did not feature in her life in one way or another.
Now full-back for St Helens in the Betfred Women’s Super League, the 23-year-old has grown up around the game thanks to her father’s lifelong involvement as a player, coach and now administrator.
Being the daughter of Dave Rotheram, the RFL’s chief on-field officer, meant her and her sister Jess were not only regulars in attendance during his time on the coaching staffs of London Broncos and St Helens, but also got behind-the-scenes access most others can only dream of.
St Helens vs Leeds Rhinos
June 23, 2022, 5:00pm
Most notably, that included the 2004 Challenge Cup final in Cardiff where Saints defeated old rivals Wigan Warriors and the proud father got a picture with his daughters and the trophy. But although she got to meet her favourite player too, it was not all fun for Rebecca.
“I actually remember being really cranky that day – I was fuming,” Rotheram told Sky Sports.
“The dresses me and my sister had on, my Nan made them, and they must have been a surprise because I remember being really angry I had trainers on and not sandals, like any five-year-old would.
“[Former St Helens forward] Nick Fozzard was my favourite player and I got to meet him that day, so that was pretty cool.
“It was a good day out because it was in Cardiff as well and then Dad brought the trophies into school, so I was the coolest kid.”
It was not rugby which was Rotheram’s first sporting love when it came to playing though. She was good enough at netball to play to county level and played the mixed-sex sport of korfball too, along with competing in the solo pursuits of swimming and athletics in her youth as well.
But while the oval ball always held an interest given her family connection, it took encouragement from school friends like her now St Helens team-mate Pip Birchall for her to actually pick one up in anger and since doing so she has never looked back.
“I always watched rugby and would go to the games, but I’d never picked up a rugby ball,” Rotheram said. “But you find people in school who have got similar interests and a lot of them happened to play rugby.
Sports I was never forced to play rugby, it was all off my own back because I started when I was in my second year of [secondary] school, which took a lot of encouragement from a lot of people because I wasn’t that interested – but I’m happy I went.
St Helens full-back Rebecca Rotheram
“I was never forced to play rugby, it was all off my own back because I started when I was in my second year of [secondary] school, which took a lot of encouragement from a lot of people because I wasn’t that interested – but I’m happy I went.
“I’d done other sports like swimming and athletics and although they were great – particularly swimming, I loved that – they were so anti-social and lonely that I just got bored.
“It’s having someone to bounce off and a chat, and you’re not on your own. If something goes wrong, there is someone there to say it’s all right, go again and give it another go.”
Rotheram’s career since making her St Helens debut in 2018 has coincided with both the rise of the Women’s Super League and her club establishing themselves as the preeminent side in the competition, sweeping all before them to claim the domestic treble last year.
Saints have already followed that up by keeping hold of the Women’s Challenge Cup back in May and on Thursday they face vanquished opponents in the final Leeds Rhinos as part of a historic double-header with the respective men’s teams at Totally Wicked Stadium, live on Sky Sports.
It follows a weekend which saw the England Women’s 36-10 win over France form part of a double-header with the men at the Halliwell Jones Stadium too and Rotheram expects even more growth if what she has seen of the next generation is anything to go by.
“I find it quite mad how much it has grown just in the last few years, considering we had Covid,” Rotheram said. “We’ve got young girls with our names on the back of their shirts, which is quite mad.
“I think it can only get better. You’ve got girls who will be coming through slowly but surely.
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“Our U19s played Warrington U19s last week and both teams were so skilful and I was so impressed with how skilful those two young teams were. There are definitely a lot of Super League stars in the making there and it’s exciting.”
Watch the double-header as the women’s and men’s teams of St Helens and Leeds Rhinos clash at Totally Wicked Stadium on Thursday evening live on Sky Sports Arena from 5pm.