Leeds Rhinos Women’s and England player Lois Forsell has been left “heartbroken” after being forced into retirement by a serious knee injury.
The 28-year-old hooker, who won 18 England caps and is one of the sport’s biggest names, has not played since rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament 13 months ago.
Forsell, who captained Leeds to the 2018 League Leaders’ title before being sidelined, has conceded she could not risk continuing her fight to return to the field following a series of complications.
“This was the worst decision for me to make and I am heartbroken that I will not be able to play again,” said Forsell, who played no part in Leeds' double-winning campaign this season.
“After suffering the ACL injury in September 2018, I had a reconstruction operation in November.
“At this stage I was still hoping to be back playing the following season, but I then found I had osteomyelitis which is a bone infection, which was a result of the first surgery.
“I was then admitted to hospital for a month and had to have a further five operations.
“During this time I was still thinking about rugby and getting back playing, but my doctor was more concerned about saving my knee.
“It was not the outcome I wanted and although my head knows it is the right decision, my heart did not want to make this call.”
Forsell has worked with Leeds Rhinos Foundation since 2012 as their women and girls development officer.
She also heads up the Leeds Rhinos Women’s Academy; eight players coached by her featured in Rhinos’ recent Grand Final win.
Forsell added: “Although I’m sad to hang up my boots I am positive about what the future holds and the impact I can still have on the Women’s game.
“I will continue to work with the Women’s Academy and will have a role with the Women’s team alongside my development work with Leeds Rhinos Foundation.”
Leeds Women’s team manager, Leon Crick, paid tribute to Forsell, saying: “Lois is without doubt the most technically gifted women’s rugby league player I have come across and although we lose her as a player we will gain a massive asset on our staff.
“She will continue to be a leading figure in the women’s team in 2020 alongside her role with Leeds Rhinos Foundation developing the next generation of players.”
Meanwhile, Leeds men's player Trent Merrin will return to Headingley to fulfil his contract.
The Australian forward, 30, was granted permission on compassionate grounds to source a deal back in the NRL, but it has now been announced he will stay at Leeds.
Director of rugby Kevin Sinfield said: “We are delighted about the news and Trent will be back for the start of pre-season at the beginning of November.
“His performances on the field were outstanding for us last season. He is looking forward to getting back and is raring to go again.”