Leeds Rhinos Women’s player and England international Lois Forsell has today announced her retirement from Rugby League due to injury.
The two-time Challenge Cup winner, who has played 18 times for England, suffered an ACL injury representing Leeds Rhinos Women against St Helens in the 2018 season and following further complications to the injury has been forced to retire.
The 28-year-old said: “This was the worst decision for me to make and I am heartbroken that I will not be able to play again.
“After suffering the ACL injury in September 2018, I had a reconstruction operation in November. At this stage I was still hoping to be back playing the following season, but I then found I had osteomyelitis which is a bone infection, which was a result of the first surgery. I was then admitted to hospital for a month and had to have a further five operations.
“During this time I was still thinking about rugby and getting back playing, but my doctor was more concerned about saving my knee. In July I had another operation to get some biopsies and remove scar tissue and pins and this all came back ok, so I was looking at moving forward and how I could get back on the pitch.
“Unfortunately, in the week leading up to this year’s Grand Final I had another check-up and was told I needed another two operations, including a bone graft to fix a hole in my femur. These would have taken between 18-24 months and involved serious risks and no guarantee I would be able to play again.
“Following this news, I came to the very difficult decision that I would retire from playing. It was not the outcome I wanted and although my head knows it is the right decision, my heart did not want to make this call.”
Forsell began playing with her local club, East Leeds when she was just seven and she went onto play for Middleton and Hunslet Hawks before playing for Bradford Bulls in the inaugural Super League season, where she won the Challenge Cup, League Leaders Shield and Grand Final.
In 2018 she helped launch the first ever Leeds Rhinos Women’s team and led the Rhinos to Challenge Cup success and the League Leaders title. She was Player of the Match in the Challenge Cup Final, nominated for the first Woman of Steel award, named the 2019 Sportswoman of the Year at the Leeds Sports Awards and in 2018 became the sport’s first-ever National Women’s Player Ambassador.
She made the first of her 18 appearances for England in 2009 and went on to play in the 2013 World Cup and was Vice Captain in the 2017 World Cup.
“Rugby League has shaped my life and it is all I have ever known,” she said. “I have so many wonderful memories of playing this game – winning the treble with Bradford Bulls, representing England, launching the first Women’s team for my hometown club and leading them to win their first piece of silverware in their debut season.
“I am grateful for all the opportunities Rugby League has given me and the many wonderful people I have worked with. Although this is a sad time for myself, I am very proud of all I have achieved and I hope to stay involved in the game.”
Alongside her playing commitments the Leeds born player has worked with Leeds Rhinos Foundation since 2012 as their Women and Girls Development Officer and heads up the Leeds Rhinos Women’s Academy. The impact of her work was evident in this year’s Women’s Grand Final winning team, with eight Rhinos players having been coached by Forsell in their school or club and in the Academy.
“To see the success of the Leeds Rhinos Women’s team this year has given me so much pride,” she said. “Through my development work with Leeds Rhinos Foundation I have seen the women’s game grow and to see the players I have coached in schools and clubs now representing the Rhinos and their country is an amazing feeling.”
Forsell now hopes to continue her involvement in the game and begin a new chapter in her career that will see her work with Women’s squad to support the development of the team and the game.
“When I was in hospital I spoke with Kevin Sinfield and he said that through adversity comes blessings. Although I am sad to hang up my boots I am positive about what the future holds and the impact I can still have on the Women’s game. I will continue to work with the Women’s Academy and will have a role with the Women’s team alongside my development work with Leeds Rhinos Foundation.
“I may be done playing, but I’m not done – I am still passionate about Rugby League and will continue to give my all to inspire the next generation and help the women’s game continue to grow.
“I would like to thank my family and friends, the physiotherapy team at the Rhinos, our player welfare manager Nigel Johnson and all the players coaches at the club for their support during a tough twelve months. I would also like to thank all the girls who I have played with at East Leeds, Middleton, Hunslet, Bradford, England and the Rhinos and all the coaches and staff who have helped me during my career.”
Marc Lovering, Director of Participation and Development at the RFL, said: ‘Lois became the RFL’s first ever national ambassador for Women’s Rugby League and has played a pivotal role in championing the sport in the media and at key events including in Parliament. A role that will continue. She should be extremely proud of all she has achieved on and off the pitch for Bradford Bulls, Leeds Rhinos, England and the whole sport.’