BRADFORD Bulls Women star Amy Hardcastle admits she is overwhelmed at seeing her rugby league prowess recognised at both local and international level.

She is one of three contenders for the title of Bradford Sportswoman of the Year at an awards ceremony in March. It is not the first time the winger/centre has been up for the prize, yet her pride at being recognised again is plain to hear when speaking to her.

She said: "It's the third year in a row I've been recognised which is fantastic. It just shows how I've kept being consistent with my rugby.

"To have my achievements noticed is overwhelming. To be getting it out there and to be recognised in Bradford itself is special."

Bradford knows a supremely talented rugby league player when it sees one, and so does the National Rugby League (NRL), which is based in Australia and is generally accepted as the best league in the world.

The southern hemisphere teams of Australia and New Zealand are widely considered, in the men and women's game, to feature the cream of the crop when it comes to individuals.

Unsurprisingly therefore,'s Women's Rugby League Team of the Decade contains 11 Aussies, five New Zealanders and just one other player, chosen to start on the wing. That woman is Hardcastle.

She said: "If I thought back to 11 years ago when I made my England debut, I wouldn't have said I'd be in there. I'm still shocked by all the support I've had off people.

"It's left me speechless and it's probably not sunk in yet how big an achievement it is. I was shocked I was the only one (from England) on it as we have had some great players.

"But then the talent in Australia and New Zealand is phenomenal. So to be the only one in the side from the northern hemisphere feels like a massive achievement."

All of this is a far cry from the start of the last decade, when women's rugby league barely created a stir, certainly in the UK.

Looking back, Hardcastle said: "Rugby league was small for women before I started. I actually did football first because there was nowhere to go for rugby.

"But over the last six years it's grown more and the last two have been phenomenal. You want to see it coming through like this.

"There are teams of young girls now from Under-10s upwards so that's a real plus going forward for girls and women."

Another boost to the sport should come in the shape of the Rugby League World Cup, which is to be held in England in late 2021.

Much of the focus has been on the men's draw, but Hardcastle says it is a chance to celebrate all of those that will be featuring at the tournament.

She said: "It's not only for the men - the wheelchair and women's tournaments get a platform at the same time. It's about time because the women players work just as hard as the men.

"We all work full-time and some of us are mums so it's nice to be recognised.

"I think we've (England) had our best start building up towards a World Cup, more so than in previous World Cups.

"We're not just training once a month any more, it's the majority of weekends, with strength and conditioning sessions mixed in there too.

"We've got a bigger pool of players than ever before and those that are not ready now will get the best coaching possible to get to that level they need to be (before the World Cup starts)."

That is still nearly two years away though, and Hardcastle's immediate focus is on her club rugby at Bradford Bulls.

Discussing the upcoming season, she said: "We've recruited well before Christmas but we've also got some young girls coming through who are wanting to progress.

"We have some really good athletes and we're coaching them, but they're really good female rugby league players too.

"Our coaches Beth (Sutcliffe) and Kirsty (Moroney) have named me as captain for next season. I was England's vice at the World Cup Nines but this is my first time being a captain itself and it's a massive role."

Asked to pick out her best moment at Bulls, she said: "My highlight was definitely when we won all three a couple of years ago (2017), the League, the Challenge Cup and the Grand Final.

"That was special as the Women's Super League had just started (giving the game a bigger platform and exposure)."