- Women’s Head Coach Kris Ratcliffe reviews the 2021 Betfred Women’s Super League campaign.
- Ratcliffe: “Our best wasn’t good enough this time, so we will be driven to make it better in all aspects.”
- Trials for the Women’s team ahead of the 2022 season have now been announced, find out more HERE.
Women’s Head Coach Kris Ratcliffe spoke to wiganwarriors.com as he talks through the 2021 campaign which saw the Warriors Women fall short following a difficult Play-Off series.
After the 2020 season was struck off due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ratcliffe explains the feeling to finally be able to get his team back on the pitch again: “It was a huge feeling of relief initially to find out that we could get back to playing. All through 2020 we trained on zoom and tried to do online socials, anything to keep mentally and physically fit really. Despite keeping a brave face and working hard I could notice the strain it had on the girls mentally. It’s very hard to comprehend how difficult it is having something you love doing being taken away from you, when you feel fit and able to play and seeing the men play no doubt added to that. So relief and excitement for them were the initial feelings when 2021 was confirmed.
The Warriors came out of the blocks quickly, racking up some confident early wins in the competition: “The first half of the season was very promising. We had done quite a bit of work on our structure so that the shape that we used was in line with the other sides at the club. The first win against Warrington was particularly pleasing, we didn’t really know what to expect from them with it being so long since the last season.
“They came up as dominant champions from the Championship. We knew they’d be full of enthusiasm and want to get one over on their local rivals. We played really well in that game with the attack looking really sharp. I recall a spell of four back to back tries that we executed really well. A great result and a big starting boost for the girls who clearly enjoyed being back out there. We followed that up with more convincing league wins against Bradford and Huddersfield, putting us well on the way to our initial goal of making the Play-Offs.”
The Warriors’ Challenge Cup run was short lived as a fixture on the road against York City Knights proved to be a thorn in the side: “The York game I suppose has become a bit of history in the Women’s game. We heard whispers early in the week that they had made some big signings and it was five Castleford stars in Peach, Renouf, Gentles, Field and Marshall plus two of the best Bradford players in Andrade and Wood. The game had moved from perhaps a given on paper, from previous results to a real tough task.”
He added: “I feel that late defeat took a lot out of us mentally. We could and should have won that game. Losing Rachel Thompson for the last 15 minutes after a late high shot meant she left the field with a head injury, it took away our control. If we had come away with the result there, I think we would’ve kicked on and made the final whilst also taking huge amounts of confidence.”
The Warriors bounced back from the Challenge Cup exit claiming a further two wins to put them five from five in the league competition. On the remaining fixtures, Ratcliffe said: “We missed the chance to get straight back out there with the Covid postponement of the Saints game. The win against Featherstone was a great result as they were a really big set in awful weather conditions, avenging a poor performance and defeat in our last meeting there. Castleford was a huge win, we had never beaten Cas before and since winning the league in 2018 hadn’t had a win against a top three team. It was hugely important to get rid of those tags and show that we could really challenge, we controlled that game throughout and finished fairly comfortable and deserved winners.
“We came up against Leeds undefeated in the league and confident in ourselves. However, Leeds are so well led around the field by Courtney Hill and they just executed better than us on the day. The York game at Odsal was also one to forget, nothing about the day was right. We played on a Monday night after full days at work, we had a positive Covid test in testing just hours before the game and had to do a late reshuffle, some of the medical equipment was missed causing a kick-off delay and it all contributed to our worst performance of the year.”
Following this the Warriors had a five-week lay off of games after the last round of fixtures were cancelled and there was a break for origin games before the Play-Off series: “From the York game we had picked up some injuries and despite the break it became apparent that Emily Stirzaker, Amy Boardman and Alison Burrows, would be missing and we moved fast to bring in Stacey Greenwood from Bradford. At the end of our last season in 2019 both of our halfbacks moved on. A lot of hard work went into creating two new halves from within our squad by moving Rachel Thompson from centre to stand off and Alison from the wing to scrum half. Looking at the attacking performances from the first part of the season, it’s clear to see what a fabulous job they did, incredible really.
“We needed Stacey to continue that job with Alison out. She had a fine debut and was my player of the match in the first Play-Off game against Castleford. The new half back pairing came to an abrupt end almost as quick as it had been put together in that game, with the devastating injury to Rachel, ending her season. We led all game but lacked any cutting edge in attack before victory was snatched from us in the final minutes of the game.”
He summarised: “That was the real story of the Play-Offs. We lacked cohesion and confidence as we seemed to pick up more injuries every week being down to our final 17 players on each of the last couple of games, it was a disappointing way to finish.
“We have a saying at the Club, ‘make your best – better’. Our best wasn’t good enough this time so we will be driven to make it better in all aspects.”