Next step Wembley for Women’s Challenge Cup final?

Drew Darbyshire

Jodie Cunningham (right) and Emily Rudge (left) celebrate St Helens' Challenge Cup win

St Helens’ Challenge Cup winner Jodie Cunningham says she would love to see the women’s final be played at Wembley in the near future.

Cunningham, who is also an ambassador for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, helped Saints win the Challenge Cup on Saturday as they beat York 34-6 in the final.

REPORT: York 6-34 St Helens: Saints win Women’s Challenge Cup final

The final, which was shown live on BBC Two, was played as part of a triple-header along with the men’s semi-finals at the Leigh Sports Village.

Cunningham says great progress is being made in the women’s game, and would love to see the women’s final played at Wembley in the near future.

“It will be nice to hopefully one day get a game at Wembley,” Cunningham said in the post-match press conference. “I think the game is going that way but for us today it was just about getting that win.

“We could have played it on a park in the middle of nowhere and for us girls it was just about getting the win, so maybe one day we’ll be playing a game at Wembley but I think progress is all in the right way.

“We are doing things now that has never happened before for the women’s game and things that I thought I’d never see as a player so it is one step at a time and I think maybe that’s the next step.”

Cunningham of St Helens lifts the Women’s Challenge Cup

Cunningham, who had played in four Challenge Cup finals for community club Thatto Heath, relished the pressure that came with being on national television.

She added: “You just know you are under a lot more eyes, it adds a lot more scrutiny with the fact you are on the BBC.

“Not just that, I think the pressure to perform for the women’s game, not just for us as individuals or St Helens women, us and York are representing the whole of the women’s game today and showcasing the sport to new eyes that would have never seen the game before. I think there was pressure in that sense as well to make sure we do the game proud.

“It feels so good to finally win a trophy as St Helens women. I think we’ve been good enough to for a long time now but just fell a little bit short.

“I think we really took Covid and the break we had to our advantage and made sure that we worked really hard to come back fitter, stronger and more skilful than ever before.

“We were a bit sloppy in our performance at times and came up with errors that we wouldn’t usually make but I think that was the occasion. It meant so much to the girls to be out there and obviously with it being live on the BBC, it was a lot so I think probably the nerves played a bit of a part but some of the tries we scored were outstanding and we dug in well on our line defensively.

“I’m so, so proud of them and it means so much. It’s probably a relief more than anything just to get that win.”

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