A community rugby project has made significant progress in addressing the gaps in provision for girls participating in the male- dominated sport.

Raider Girls, one of Advantage! Barrow Raiders Community Foundation's projects, was first set up in May 2019.

When foundation manager Siona Hartley and director of community Denis Fay first set up Advantage! along with the support of Steve Neale, the chairman of Barrow Raiders, they wanted to address the issue of women and girls' provision, along with the need for more inclusive offers within rugby league. 

Siona said: “Raider Girls was originally set up as a participation group, allowing girls to develop their skills in rugby and have fun, until they were old enough to join Barrow Raiders Ladies team.

“Prior to the pandemic, Raider Girls enjoyed participation levels of up to 50 girls, throughout the ages five-16, and post-pandemic, whilst numbers inevitably dropped off, we are seeing good numbers once again, with new starters coming each week. 

“It is now, Advantage! believe, we are on the cusp of developing clear structures and pathways for girls and women's rugby in the Furness area.

“Raider Girls, our participation group, will soon be Raider Girls Rugby Development Squad, with age groups and training targeted to under 10s, 12s, 14s, 16s.

"There will be new opportunities for the members of this development squad to compete in player development leagues, and with our new strength and conditioning sessions aimed at under 19s, and the reserves and Super League team already in place, there is a clear pathway for girls and women to succeed at the very highest level in Rugby League, right here in Barrow and the Furness area. “

Advantage! Barrow Raiders Community Foundation have received funding from Boost Charitable Trust to develop Raider Girls, Raider Braves, and to target secondary schools, offering after-school clubs.

Siona said: “We believe this is a vital step to engage more girls, with potential and talent, to try the game of rugby league. 

“The next two to three years promises to be the most significant in the Furness area to seeing rugby league grow, offering something for everyone, from full competitive rugby, to touch, tag and masters and social rugby.