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Bradford Thunderbirds are go since Clayton move
It has been a long time coming but Bradford Clayton Thunderbirds have finally made themselves at home.
After a nomadic existence, the city’s only women’s rugby league team have settled at Clayton Rugby Club.
Formerly known as Bradford Thunderbirds, and before that Dudley Hill Thunderbirds, the switch to Scholemoor Road prompted another name change.
“We went to Clayton on a trial basis for a year but the girls have enjoyed it so much that it has become home,” said Thunderbirds head coach Michael Lambert.
“That was about three years ago and we’ve been made to feel so welcome, hence the name change to Bradford Clayton Thunderbirds.
“We feel settled and happy here, which we’ve not had in any other place – and we’ve played at about ten different grounds, such as Dudley Hill, Wibsey and Bradford Salem.
“Even if the girls aren’t playing, they can just turn up and have a drink in the bar. We also have all our end-of-season presentation and fundraising events here.”
Back in March, the Thunderbirds helped to kick off a new summer era of the women’s game when they travelled to Warrington Ladies in the Premier Division.
Even for a sport as popular as rugby league is in Bradford, making ends meet is a struggle for the club’s only team.
Clayton resident Lambert, a credit control supervisor at Puma in Batley, explained: “I’m the head coach and do a bit of everything else too.
“Anything that needs doing is done from within the team. We don’t have a big committee, people will simply double up and perform more than one role. The treasurer plays for us as well.
“We got an RFL grant for being in the RFL league this year but other than that, most of the funding comes from subscriptions and any kind of sponsorship that we can get.”
Yet Lambert admitted: “Financially it’s a struggle. We’re currently in need of a brand new kit and are desperately trying to find some sponsorship for that.
“At this moment in time we’re just drawing blanks. Nobody is willing to sponsor the kit.”
Women’s football and, to a lesser extent, rugby union have enjoyed huge growth in recent years but women’s rugby league remains well under the radar. Media coverage is virtually non-existent.
“Until that perception changes, I can’t see women’s rugby league moving forward,” admitted 31-year-old Lambert, an avid Bulls fan and a forward in Clayton’s men team.
“It’s something the RFL are working very hard on but it needs to move in the same direction as women’s football.
“It’s been on national television and women’s rugby league definitely needs something to boost its profile.”
Nevertheless, there is no shortage of talent within Lambert’s squad. Five Thunderbirds players – Lauren Stallwood, Amy Hardcastle, Kirsty Moroney, Lois Forsell and Rachel Twibill – were in the England women’s side that thumped France 48-0 at Odsal in June.
“The main bulk of the players come from Bradford, Halifax and Leeds but players have been drawn from York and even as far as Newcastle,” said Lambert.
“People don’t really stand out in our squad. It’s a real team effort. We all work together at the same standard. Bradford Clayton Thunderbirds have got every opportunity to keep pushing forward.”
Last weekend saw the first round of the play-offs for the women’s leagues and the Thunderbirds claimed a thrilling 18-16 win at Warrington Wolves.
Lambert, whose side were defeated by Featherstone in the Challenge Cup final earlier in the season, said: “Beating Warrington has given us a week off but we’ve probably got Widnes in the next round.
“If we beat Widnes, we’ll be through to the second final of the year.”
To join the Thunderbirds, telephone Lambert on 07894-150386.