On the first day of a new league season, Leanne Woods has been the most recognisable figure at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Woods, the most decorated Irish player in the history of the game, has captained the Irish Women’s Eagles for eight seasons, playing in two World Cups and two Grand Slams, and won the Rugby League World Cup twice.
When she was still a player, the Eagles won the NRL Grand Final in 2011, the World Cup in 2012, and the NRL grand final in 2016.
Woods made her debut in the senior women’s game as a 16-year-old, but after two years playing at club level, the women’s club side decided she would be better off playing for the Ireland squad for the World Cups.
After a brief stint at the Brisbane Broncos, Wood became an All Black and then made the breakthrough in the women`s game in 2017, with the Eagles winning the grand final against the Wallabies.
Wood won the Wallaby Test series in 2017 but suffered a foot injury during the Wallarabies tour of the US in 2021, which forced her to retire from the sport.
Wood was an All-Ireland winner in 2017 for the second time and was also an All Blacks lock.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play in a World Cup, and it’s a great honour to be back,” said Woods, who became the first woman to be selected for the All Blacks, joining the likes of Christine Ansell, Shannon Hurn, Lillian Kish, Helen Glover and Shannon Walker as the only women to represent Ireland at the World Championships.
The Eagles’ squad of 12 players has a history that stretches back to their inaugural season in 1996, with Wood the youngest player in her squad.
Leanne Wood in action against France in the 2015 World Cup.
Source: SuppliedThe Eagles won their first four matches, including a 20-17 victory over Italy in the semi-finals before winning their last two games by a combined score of 36-17.
Wood made a huge impact in the first year of the women�s game, leading the Irish squad to the semi finals in 2017.
But her role in the side in 2019 saw her sidelined with a knee injury, with her future in the sport uncertain.
The Eagles have since made the World Club Series in 2019 and are looking to make it four straight finals in 2019, with an appearance at the 2019 Rugby World Cup final on their CV.
Wood is the only player in history to have played at least five seasons in the professional game at the same time as being a rugby league professional, and has a remarkable resume in her career.
The Irish Women�s team was one of the most successful in women�troy history, winning the Women�fructular World Championship in the early 1990s, then winning the World Rugby Women�Airlines Cup in 2000, and making the final of the All-Star Games in 2003.
Wood played for the Wallaroo club for 12 years before becoming an All Star for the Eagles in 2014, with a maiden Grand Final appearance in 2017 and the women captaincy for the 2017 Rugby World Club Cup.
Wood and the Eagles have also had a long and storied history in the Women’s game.
The most recent Irish women’s internationals to play for the national team were Leann Balfe in 2017; Kieran Marmion in 2016; and Rosie Denton in 2016, while Mary-Anne Curran played for Ireland for two seasons in 2005.
Wood’s last international for Ireland came in 2008, when she played for France, before a year in Ireland was released due to injury.
Wood, who was a player for Ireland from 1996 to 2003, was also part of the Ireland team that won the women”s national title in the 2011 Rugby World Championship.
She was Ireland”s most successful player for a number of years, having played in six World Cups, six Grand Slam matches and the Rugby World Cups in 2008 and 2014.
Wood led Ireland to the World Championship final in 2015 and won a place in the World Twenty20 in 2019.