Even though she is still just 21 years of age, it is difficult to overstate the importance of Caitlin Beevers to the Leeds Rhinos team.
Just ask her head coach, Lois Forsell, who was quick to proclaim “every team needs a Caitlin Beevers” after her player-of-the-match performance in last year’s Betfred Women’s Super League Grand Final triumph over York.
The England international will be aiming to carry on where she left off in 2022 as the Rhinos and the newly renamed Valkyrie clash in a Grand Final rematch – live on Sky Sports – in the BWSL season-opener on Easter Sunday, although she still finds it hard to believe how quick her ascent has been.
“It still comes as a bit of a shock to me that I’m classed as one of the experienced heads in the squad at such a young age,” Beevers, who is set to become the first Rhinos player to make 50 Women’s Super League appearances for the Rhinos, told Sky Sports.
“I’ve been at Leeds since day one, so I kind of know how the cogs work.
“That quote from Lois, it’s what every player wants – they want to be noticed and recognised and complemented by their coach.
“That’s the reason you do it, and you want to do well for your team, and that was lovely to hear from Coach.”
Not that anyone should be surprised Beevers has become one of the stars of the Women’s Super League, though, given she has long displayed an aptitude for rugby league which led to her joining Leeds in 2019.
As a Year 11 pupil, the Dewsbury native scored 38 points – five tries and nine goals – in a 66-0 win for St John Fisher Catholic Voluntary Academy against Shotton Hall in the 2017 Girls Champion Schools final.
Beevers then joined the Rhinos for their inaugural campaign and the 2019 season saw her lining up at full-back as they defeated Castleford Tigers 20-12 in the BWSL Grand Final.
She has been a member of the senior England team since 2018 and last year capped Leeds’ second Grand Final triumph by starring at centre as the host nation reached the semi-finals of the Rugby League World Cup, which afforded the women’s game another high-profile platform.
“It was just a fantastic year for the country and for rugby league,” Beevers said. “I feel like the World Cup was the best thing that could have happened for the country and the sport at the time.
“We’ve not even started the season and already the attention we’re getting on social media is massive.
“Little pieces of news, such as new signings and what Leeds are doing, is getting more attention than it ever has done.
“I can’t really imagine what it’s going to be like in the season, so we’re all dead excited to see what the league has to bring.”
Sometimes it’s a bit hard to believe that I’m somehow helping the game, but if we can do that it’s a massive advantage for the women’s game.
It will be something of a new-look Leeds team taking to the field at Headingley on Sunday for a match that forms the first part of a double-header which sees the men’s team face Huddersfield Giants as well.
Former Woman of Steel Courtney Winfield-Hill has retired, but the Rhinos have made headlines with the high-profile signings of Beevers’ England team-mate Amy Hardcastle and New Zealand international Georgia Hale.
Leeds and York are the first two BWSL teams to start paying their players as well, as the competition slowly moves away from being an entirely amateur affair, and the Rhinos co-captain is in no doubt about how much of a positive that is for the game’s development.
“Don’t get me wrong, we all started playing rugby because it’s the sport we love and want to play with our mates,” Beevers said.
“It’s never been about money, and it still isn’t – but the fact it has come into the Women’s Super League is a massive step in the right direction and that is what the sport needs.
“That’s the best direction Leeds could have gone and that will show how the league will develop.”
Beevers has long been a trailblazer for women’s rugby league, making history in 2018 by becoming the first female to referee the Year 7 Boys National Schools final at Wembley ahead of that year’s Challenge Cup final along with her playing achievements.
She admits it is sometimes difficult to comprehend being at the forefront of the women’s rugby league revolution in this country, but the Rhinos co-captain is nevertheless excited to be playing a part in taking the sport she loves to new heights.
“Growing up, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you a handful of England players, but now it’s promoted, it’s on TV and social media is covering it big-time,” Beevers said.
“It’s hard not to know who is in the squad and I think that’s fantastic for the game, and that’s where legacy comes from.
“What gets used a lot with us is we’re building a pathway and the foundations. Sometimes it’s a bit hard to believe that I’m somehow helping the game, but if we can do that it’s a massive advantage for the women’s game.
“If this is where it is now after four or five years, just imagine where it will be in another four or five years.”
Watch Leeds Rhinos and York Valkyrie kick off the 2023 Betfred Women’s Super League season with a rematch of last year’s Grand Final live on Sky Sports Action on Sunday, April 10 from 3pm. Stream the 2023 season, including the men’s, women’s and wheelchair Grand Finals, on NOW TV.