Women's Challenge Cup final: Hollie Dodd to make Castleford Tigers debut aged 16

By Katie FalkinghamBBC Sport
Hollie Dodd
Hollie Dodd will attend Loughborough College from September on a rugby scholarship
Women's Challenge Cup final: Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers
Venue: University of Bolton Stadium Date: Saturday, 27 July Kick-off: 11:15 BST Coverage: Watch live on the BBC Red Button and online

What did you do to celebrate your 16th birthday?

Some buy their first lottery ticket. Others ride a moped on the road for the first time, while some even sign up for the army.

Not Hollie Dodd. She will be preparing to make her Castleford Tigers debut - in the Challenge Cup final, no less.

Dodd celebrates turning 16 on Friday but the celebrations will be delayed until Saturday, when she will become the youngest person to ever play in a Challenge Cup final - male or female - when she plays with her Tigers team-mates for the first time, having had to wait for her 16th birthday due to age restrictions.

They play Leeds Rhinos in the final at the University of Bolton Stadium and for Dodd, it has been a nervous wait.

"I've been training towards this for quite a while now and I just want to get out there," she tells BBC Sport. "But making my debut in a Challenge Cup final is another experience entirely.

"I'm definitely feeling the pressure, but it shows they have faith in me. I can't wait to just get out there.

"It's a complete step up to club level, but I'm hopeful that I will fit in well."

Dodd a 'rare find'

It is expected that Dodd will play given she is widely seen as a future star of the sport.

For Tigers head coach Lindsay Anfield, she's proving one in a million.

"Even from when she was really young, 11 or 12 years old, she has been the best talent in rugby league in her age group," Anfield told BBC Sport.

"I think she'll hold her own and be one of the standout players on Saturday.

"Athletically, she's probably one of the best in the women's game at the moment. She is a really good athlete and is very skilful as well, she is a bit of a rare find.

Dodd - who plays centre - was first introduced to rugby at her school, Castleford Academy.

She will start at Loughborough College in September on a rugby scholarship that will see her switch codes to union, but she isn't preparing to say goodbye to league anytime soon.

"I didn't have much knowledge of the game at first, but I could tell with my line running that I liked it and that I was good," says Dodd, whose brother Harry plays for Wakefield Trinity's academy.

"I don't want to quit rugby league so I will hopefully still play for Castleford at weekends.

"I just want to play rugby all the time. Hopefully one day I'll pull on an England shirt, that's what I want."

Hollie Mae Dodd
Dodd helped Castleford Academy to four Champion Schools titles

From ballroom to the rugby field

Saturday's final acts as the warm-up for the men's Challenge Cup semi-finals, in which Warrington Wolves will play Hull and St Helens will take on Halifax.

But the stadium will be a world away from the first arenas Dodd used to compete in - as a ballroom and Latin dancer.

A multiple national dancing champion as a child, Dodd chose rugby because she felt it provided "more of a future" for her.

"It was a hard transition from one to the other, but I enjoy rugby more so it was better for me mentally," she says.

"I recently had to dance for my GCSEs so I had to put a dance dress on again for the first time in a while.

"My physique had changed a lot and I wasn't as good as I used to be."

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