NO Betfred Women’s Super League team has ever won back-to-back Grand Finals, or a trio of consecutive League Leaders’ Shields, but that’s exactly what York Valkyrie director of rugby Lindsay Anfield has her sights set on in 2024.

An outstanding 34-12 victory at reigning Grand Final winners Leeds Rhinos in front of the Sky Sports cameras on the season’s opening weekend outlined the Valkyrie as a force to be reckoned with, and there’s no doubt that they lived up to that billing.

The Rhinos were the only team to take a point off Anfield’s side through an unbeaten league campaign, with a historic second consecutive League Leaders’ Shield wrapped up in August.

But the best was yet to come - a first-ever Grand Final triumph against Leeds in front of a record crowd at the LNER Community Stadium.

2023 also offered the opportunity to take part in the first Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, but despite Faye Gaskin’s last-minute drop-goal breaking Valkyrie hearts in the Semi Final, Anfield looks back on her side’s season with delight.

“It really exceeded my expectations on the field,” she told The Press.

“To win the Grand Final, that’s what I wanted to do.

“I’ve been here at York for a few years now and coached some of the girls at Castleford before, and so it’s a real monkey off our back.

“And the League Leaders’ Shield, we want that consistency week in, week out. Turning up on the field, it puts you in as good a place as you can be.

“Of course, not getting to Wembley was a really big disappointment, but we’ll have our focus on that in 2024.

“We really want to add that one.”

Not just at the forefront of the sport on the pitch, the Valkyrie have been setting the precedent off it.

Just weeks after their historic Grand Final glory, chairman Clint Goodchild displayed a show of faith in his double-winning side by becoming the first team in the competition’s history to offer professional contracts.

Similar to those offered to players in the men’s Betfred Championship and League One competitions, the contracts also offer maternity provisions and player options comparable to the rapidly-growing NRLW.

Woman of Steel Sinead Peach, full-back Tara Jane Stanley and forward Liv Wood became the first three players to pen professional terms, with 20 now signed on for 2024.

“When I came to York, I wanted to re-imagine the women’s game,” Anfield admitted.

“You always want to keep pushing and improving that final product on the field.

“We’re lucky enough to have Clint there for us, backing us and pushing us further forward, and it’s pushing others on now to do the same.

“There is perhaps a bit of added pressure to perform now.

“There’s also more games being streamed on Sky Sports now, so I hope that can continue.

"It's a great time to be a part of it!"

Off the field, York’s celebrations continued into the autumn.

A trophy parade was held on the River Ouse, in association with City Cruises, with fans turning out to welcome the team as they travelled along the river and under Lendal Bridge.

A civic reception with Council leaders followed, despite fears that such an event may not have gone ahead.

And with the Valkyrie the first sporting team in York to claim a national title, it was a moment to savour.

“It was amazing,” Anfield enthused of the Valkyrie’s trophy parade on the Ouse.

“That has to be one of my highs.

“When Clint first mentioned the idea to us, we didn’t really know what to expect.

“But people gathered around the river for us, and it was amazing to get that recognition for us. There were some people who had planned to turn out to the parade, but others just stopped on the bridge, watched, and waved at us - they still knew what was going on.

“For the people of York to be so knowledgeable about women’s rugby, it’s great.

“And then we had the civic reception with the City Council, it was really nice to get that recognition.”