Danika Priim: From an unbeaten Bull to a Leeds Rhino!
A gladiatorial sport like rugby comes with its fair share of highs and lows, challenges Danika Priim is all too familiar with. We featured Danika in a GRM article last September where she was part of a barnstorming unbeaten Bradfords Bulls, and was selected to represent England in the Rugby League World cup.
Since then, and with the inauguration of the Women's Super League, 33 year old Priim has decided to leave unbeaten Bradford to join local rivals Leeds Rhinos! I caught up with Danika to discuss her reasons for the switch and the future of Womens' Rugby League!
1. You achieved huge success with Bradford, when and why did you decide to leave?
"Bradford Bulls were incredible last year and Mark Prescott has been pivotal in making that team so successful. I transferred to Bradford at the back end of the previous season as I needed to up the level I was playing at in preparation for the World Cup and who else would you want to play for!
"The season for me started really well and the coaching was just what I needed. I managed to get a successful tour to France with England in June to earn my first two starting test shirts based on my performance in the domestic game, and everything was on track for making the final World Cup Squad. Unfortunately, mid-season I managed to tear my ACL and damage my knee... devastating! Luckily it was relatively minor and I had some work done and was told that with a lot of hard work and physio, I would still be able to make the squad in November. The girls at Bradford and Mark were really supportive and I still went to every game and the finals and saw them make history - at the same time I was absolutely devastated to not feel a part of it as a player, something that affected me psychologically more than anticipated.
"I had 14 really hard weeks from operation to the flight to Australia and think I focused so much on myself and my own goals and I was disappointed with my personal performances, feeling as though I had let a lot of people down! In the end, the easiest thing was to give in! By the time I came back from Sydney I felt a little overwhelmed by rugby, it was either stop playing rugby all together or start afresh.
"Leeds Rhinos have been my team for as long as I can remember which was another reason why I was interested. I attended the trials and was successful, then to then hear what Leeds wanted to do for the team and the women's game was exciting! A new coaching team I had never worked with, a new playing team, most of whom i didn't know let alone play with and just a really exciting prospect. It was too good an opportunity to pass up and maybe now is my chance to be a part of history as a player! I have to say, it is just incredible at Leeds and I look forward to training every week as I’m being pushed not only on my skills but with my strength and conditioning too.
2. As a player of both codes, what would you choose if you had to pick Union or League?
"That is a really tough question!! I am a union player by trade, if you can call it that, and have had so many opportunities thanks to the game. My club is West Park Leeds through and through. It has been a killer not playing for them this season because the ladies team is doing incredibly well and, much like Bulls last season, are currently undefeated. Rugby league has slowly crept its way up the chart, I never thought I would say it but I've learnt to love everything about the code and your team mates become your family very quickly. I've reached the ultimate goal by playing for my country in a World Cup and got to do it with an absolutely awesome bunch of ladies and staff. I am loving league at the minute and the opportunities and experiences it has given me... so League wins... there, I said it!"
3. What positives can you take away from last year’s World Cup and what would you change if you could change 1 thing about the tournament?
"The experience!! I got to travel to the other side of the World and do the thing I love. From the get go, we were treated with the utmost respect and felt like professionals. I can honestly say that from a management point of view, I never had to worry about anything thanks to the physios, coaches and analysis behind the scenes.
"To play at that level is difficult to describe; there are just so many emotions. I think the best thing that I will take away (among so many incredible things) was how tight knit and protective we became of each other as a team. Things didn't necessarily go our way and we had a few tough periods to overcome but I knew I could turn to any of the girl for a chat or a hug- that’s what you need most in that environment, just the security. I really missed them when I came back as well as the routine of it all. I am just so grateful to have even been a part of that squad considering the struggle leading up to it with injury so just to be there was insane!
I guess the biggest thing I would change as a whole was our finishing position and missing that trip to Brisbane. Finishing 3rd in the World is amazing and we are really proud. Following some analysis and knowing what we are capable of will always create a 'what if' debate, but the girls and the set-up is well on its way to making sure that next time round England will finish higher - I truly believe that!"
4. The launch of the Women’s Super League has created a buzz around the sport, do you think we’re close to having paid professionals in the RL women’s system?
"How exciting is the up and coming season!! It is great that they have made an official launch and that representatives from each team got to go along with the men’s teams. It is a really exciting time for rugby league and the women's game. Having the Grand Final last season was awesome and it was streamed live, all steps in the right direction. I often get asked about being professional and obviously it would be a dream come true. It is hard to say if and when the women will go pro, you always hope so and i don't think it is too far off. I think we need to build the women's game first and get the support not only from sponsors but ultimately the fans. They will be pivotal in making the women's game grow. Having more spectators than just your friends and family is an incredible feeling and hopefully the way things are going we can attract more and get them to come and watch our games. This is great for the fans, the girls playing and hopefully we will inspire more of the younger generation to give it a go at a local club.
We are going to see the local derby between Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls back... that is a game not to be missed!
So let’s see what this season brings, and maybe two or three more, then I think we will be looking at a more professional platform for the women to play in. It certainly did not do Australia any harm in the World Cup! "
5. Describe your goals this season in just 3 words
"Tough call - Driven, successful, title-winners!"
Thank you for taking the time out to speak to GRM! All the best with your new team and season!
Written by Shawn Boatin