YORK City Knights Ladies' team are officially now one of the main players in the land, having been accepted into the inaugural Women's Super League.

The side, who were unbeaten in this year's Summer Merit League and won the Challenge Shield in July in their first year under the Knights' umbrella, will be one of eight clubs – including huge names in rugby league – competing in next year's new-look elite competition.

Knights Ladies coach Daryl North reckoned the quality in his squad, plus the support of Knights chairman Jon Flatman and Neil Gulliver of the Knights Foundation, was key to being accepted, alongside the likes of Leeds Rhinos and Castleford.

"For York to be playing in Super League is a massive achievement for women's rugby and sport in general in York," said North.

"I don't think the city has any other team competing in the top tier or playing at that level week in, week out.

"I'm so pleased we've been accepted because I believe the girls need this challenge to progress as players and as a squad.

"Having spoken to Jon, I know he is backing our team and wants us to be successful. We have very good players in our squad, as our results from last year show."

A four-team WSL was piloted this year involving Women's Challenge Cup winners Bradford Bulls, Featherstone, Thatto Heath-St Helens and Castleford Tigresses.

They will be joined in next season's restructured set-up – reflecting the growth in women's rugby league in recent times – by Leeds, York and two other as yet unnamed teams, both expected to be affiliated to big Super League clubs.

In addition, there will be eight teams in the Championship, with others making up the Merit League.

Knights Ladies captain Carly Hilton is excited about the future.

"We have many players in our squad that are capable of playing at Super League level already, so with some hard training and building a bigger squad, we will be ready for it," she said.

"It will be a massive honour to play in Super League. This is a great achievement for the girls, coaches, club and city.

"We have the full backing of all at York City Knights, which gives us a huge boost going into our pre-season."

York's only defeat of 2017 came against Castleford in the Yorkshire Cup, a narrow 16-8 loss on a hot day that saw the Knights finish with only 12 fit players due to injuries.

Hilton said: "I do believe now is the right time for us to move up to Super League.

"The girls are more than capable of playing against these kinds of teams, as last season showed when we were drawn against Cas in the cup."

Kay Rollinson, who has taken up a coaching role after ending her 26-year playing career in July, believes the move shows the ambition within the Knights club.

"This puts York up against the big guns," she said. "I think it's massive for the city and proves York City Knights and the board are fully behind the ladies.

"Over the last season there have been so many positive things coming out of the Knights, which proves we want to stand with the likes of Leeds, St Helens and the rest of Super League in every aspect of the club.

"The fact we have been given a chance to play alongside the best women's teams in the country says a lot about the vision of the board, coaching team and players."

Rollinson also highlighted the quality of the training base the ladies share with the men at York St John University's state-of-the-art sports centre.

She said: "The facilities at YSJU have had a massive impact. Quality training and playing facilities help players achieve the best that they can.

"I'm really excited to be a part of something which is only going to get better as the seasons go on."

Player Nat Carr added: "I think going into the Super League will not only be good for the club but also for the girls.

"It allows us to play at a higher level, which will help us improve every day as a team. I love the girls and I can't wait to go through this journey with them."

Forward Gemma Kay said: "I am so excited. For a lot of us, playing in the top flight of women's rugby had only ever been a dream.

"Now we've been handed this massive opportunity to be in something amazing with a group of girls that are not only your team-mates but your best friends – and we're going to grasp the opportunity with both hands."

Centre Ashleigh Hyde added: "We know what a massive step up this is and it's going to be tough. But with help from the Knights and determination from us girls, I think we will be just fine.

"We're a strong-bonded team that love to challenge ourselves. Super League is just what we need right now."