In Focus: Amy Hardcastle’s impact beyond the rugby league field as an inspiration to hundreds

Ben Olawumi
Amy Hardcastle

Leeds Rhinos' Amy Hardcastle inspires hundreds of young people on and off the field, and will have the backing of every single one at Wembley

If you think you’re busy, take a quick look at Amy Hardcastle’s weekly schedule, and you’ll see what the word means!

Through her many roles off the field, the Leeds Rhinos star supports hundreds of young people across West Yorkshire, and on Saturday as she steps out at Wembley, she’ll have the backing of every single one.

35-year-old Hardcastle will walk out at the national stadium donning the Rhinos’ colours for the second year on the spin, having been involved in last year’s historic Women’s Challenge Cup final, that the first one ever to be held under the famous arch.

The opponents last year were former club St Helens, and that will be the same nine months on, with the aim of a different result having lost out 22-8 in August 2023.

READ NEXT: Everything you need to know about Challenge Cup finals day at Wembley including kick-off times, squad news & broadcast information

In Focus: Amy Hardcastle’s impact beyond the rugby league field as an inspiration to hundreds

‘Wembley week’ looks different this time around for Hardcastle, who has taken time out from every role she holds – other than the one as a mum.

Speaking to LoveRugbyLeague at Monday’s pre-final media day, the 26-time England international explained: “I’ve decided to put everything to one side this week.

“It’s been a hectic few months for me, and this is a big occasion, it’s one of the biggest things you can do in your rugby career.

“Reflecting on the big games we’ve had and myself, it was weighing up what I could do to prepare as best as I could, so work’s gone on the back-burner this week.

“I’m just going to get in the gym, recover well, eat well and just repeat that until we get on the coach at Headingley on Friday morning.”

LRL RECOMMENDS: Full-time jobs in the day, rugby league players by night – The stories behind the stars of the Women’s Super League

Hardcastle details non-stop schedule

Centre Hardcastle made her England debut back in 2009, and is one of the champion stories in the women’s game having played a starring role in its drastic progression.

Juggling rugby league and motherhood, with a teenage daughter, is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ex-Bradford Bulls ace’s calendar, holding numerous other roles which describing as ‘day jobs’ would be playing down far, far too much given how inspiring they all are.

The Halifax native detailed: “I’m currently doing my level four counselling, because I want to be a counsellor for young people.

“I work two days for a charity called Invictus Wellbeing, which is in Halifax, providing wellbeing and counselling for young people.

“It’s one-to-one work with referrals to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), helping people dealing with mental health issues, suicide ideation, self-harm.

“I do that twice a week, and then I do two days a week with the Halifax Panthers Foundation for the women & girls.

“I go into schools, do rugby coaching for them, and then I’m also head coach for the ladies side of things as well as of the start of this year.

“Then I’m a mum as well!”

Breaking her more than hectic weekly schedule down, Hardcastle continued: “Monday is a full day of wellbeing, I work all day in a school on a Tuesday and then leave there to get to Headingley for training.

“Wednesday, I’m in uni all day and then I’m with the Panthers, but I do a peer group on a Wednesday so I go to Brighouse High  School for my coaching, then to my peer group and then it’s coaching again at night.

“Thursday is a little bit of a catch-up day for me before I go to training in the evening, and then Friday is my wellbeing again.

“Then there’s a game (for Leeds) on a weekend, but because Halifax play as well, they might be playing on a Saturday or a Sunday depending on what the schedule is.”

READ NEXT: George Riley’s emotional tribute to Rob Burrow – My close friend who will never, ever be forgotten

‘You can really make a difference to a young person, and that’s what I strive to do’

Virtually every single facet of Hardcastle’s life, both on and off the field, is about inspiring and helping young people.

That starts with being a positive role model for her 13-year-old daughter, and as evidenced by the non-stop nature of her schedule seemingly never stops.

Explaining why she’s so keen to continue inspiring those finding their way in life, the Rhinos star said: “As I’ve got older, I’ve started learning more about myself.

“When I worked at Rugby League Cares, and we used to deliver sessions in the community, you did see a lot of the younger ones struggling.

“I think it’s the self-reflection of knowing that if I can give some support or be a positive influence on someone, then that might be able to change someone or guide them in a different way.

“I feel like if we can tackle that issue at a young age, it provides people with the tools to be able to go on and succeed in life and be able to manage themselves through challenging situations.

“We probably don’t teach resilience enough and how important it is to accept that not everything in life is going to be straightforward.

“When an obstacle comes, you tend to go inside yourself and you don’t want to come out, so you get stuck.

“But if you can support and give people the right tools, then they can recognise those feelings and think, ‘this is okay, I’ll think about how I can approach it differently.’

“It’s important for me even more so being a mum. Young people need the right people around them to support them and be empathetic, you can really make a difference, and that’s what I strive to do.”

RELATED: Leeds confirm Rob Burrow tribute game at Headingley, with plans to remember Rhinos legend including one-off kit

‘I’m conditioned this way now… I’m an on-the-go type of person’

The DNA of teams is something referenced a lot, not just in rugby league but across the wider sporting world in general.

When characters like Hardcastle are in your dressing room, that sort of thing just takes care of itself, a role model to the young members of the playing squad at Headingley as well as those who watch on from the stands.

But the stalwart says she needs them as much as they need her, admitting there’s a fear within her of having to hang up her boots at some point.

She detailed: “Being a mum, running two jobs, being a head coach at Halifax, training and fitting everything into my schedule is kind of part of who I am now.

“I’m conditioned this way now, and if I didn’t have all of this, it’d scare me because I’m an on-the-go type of person.

“I appreciate all the opportunities that I get and appreciate this time because I know that it’s not going to be here forever.

“Even though when you look at it on paper, you’re saying, ‘how can one person manage that?’, it’s pretty easy when this is all you’ve ever known.

“My daughter’s 13 now, so it’s been for the past 13 years. But it makes everything worth so much more because of how much meaning there is behind it and how much sacrifice there is.

“I work hard at what I do and I just enjoy a quiet life at home, going training and seeing my friends then going back into hiding!”

MEN’S CHALLENGE CUP FINAL: Different stories, same goal – inside Sam Burgess & Matt Peet’s road to a potential Wembley ‘classic’ between Warrington Wolves & Wigan Warriors