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Ellie France: My Rugby League Journey

December 18, 2022

The 2013 rugby league season on these shores domestically will perhaps be best remembered for Wigan Warriors winning a Super League and Challenge Cup double.

It was also a World Cup year with England hosting the tournament. But for Shaun Johnson’s magic, the home nation would have reached the final but it was New Zealand who progressed to the showpiece event at Old Trafford.

Australia proved too strong for the Kiwis, nine years ago, just like they did against Samoa last month, proving that some things in rugby league don’t change.

For Cornwall’s recently appointed physio Ellie France, 2013 was a notable year in her rugby league journey but not because of a World Cup or Wigan’s club dominance.

Saturday, February 9 was the date that a teenager from Wakefield fell in love with the greatest game for the first time.

And since that significant day at Trinity’s character laden home venue, as Wakefield defeated Hull Kingston Rovers 36-20, a journey began that went from supporting her hometown team to now working in the sport. 

“My uncle got a season ticket at Wakefield for my brother but he wasn’t really that interested so I said I would go along just to watch the band playing at half-time,” France told cornwallrlfc.co.uk.

“They were called the Loveable Rogues and they were quite famous back in the day because they appeared on X-Factor.

“I only went to watch the band but within the first 20 minutes something happened and I thought ‘wow’ because I knew the game would be far more interesting than any X-Factor band.”

Action from Ellie’s first ever rugby league match she attended – SWPix

France admits that the finer details of the match aren’t easily remembered but for the following day’s newspapers would have read Wakefield 36 Hull KR 20 as Ben Cockayne came back to haunt his former side with a brilliant hat-trick.

Whatever the result, rugby league had a new supporter even if France admits her introduction to the sport was ‘unconventional’.

“After that I was hooked and didn’t miss a game home or away for years.” she added. “I think my family were pleased because it kept up a rugby tradition as both my dad and uncle played rugby. I just stumbled across rugby in an unconventional way and Wakefield Trinity won so I got off to a good start.”

If France’s teenage years were spent supporting Trinity, since graduating from Leeds Beckett University as a Bachelor of Science in Sports and Exercise Therapy in 2021, she has moved from the terraces to working within the sport, via a spell with Championship football club Rotherham United.

Gaining experience at Bradford, Castleford and most recently Hunslet, France has now made the decision to leave her roots and try something different in Cornwall.

“People from Yorkshire are very proud and sometimes don’t want to leave Yorkshire and rugby league is seen as a sport within the M62 corridor. But as soon as the opportunity to live by the beach and have a more relaxed, chilled way of life came up, it took my fancy and I am glad I have moved.”

Ellie pictured with boyfriend and Choughs star Charley Bodman

Due to her visit Cornwall with Hunslet and subsequent trips to cheer on boyfriend Charley Bodmin when the Parksiders weren’t in action, France revealed that those experiences seen in the 2022 season were instrumental in her decision to move. 

“I absolutely loved the whole experience of coming here with Hunslet last year,” the 23-year-old revealed. “The ground is lovely and the people were lovely too. The atmosphere was next level, especially for a team that is new to the sport.

“My family are going to turn into Cornwall fans and come down next year because it is a different type of rugby down here. The fans and the environment are positive and so different from what I have experienced previously.”