‘Butterfly effect’: St Helens history-maker reaping the rewards from cross-code switch

Ben Olawumi
Phoebe Hook

St Helens winger Phoebe Hook became the first woman to score two tries at Wembley as they lifted the Women's Challenge Cup for the fourth year on the spin

St Helens ace Phoebe Hook has now scored in – and won – two Women’s Challenge Cup finals at Wembley. But had it not been for her re-finding a love of rugby union last year, she may well have slipped through the net altogether.

20-year-old Hook – who is still a university student – was snapped up by Saints midway through last season, scoring under the arch in what was just her sixth appearance for the club in the 2023 triumph against Leeds Rhinos.

Just as she had in that 22-8 success, the winger once again scored the Red V’s second try at Wembley on Saturday as they ran out 22-0 winners against the same opponents.

In doing so, Matty Smith’s side lifted the Challenge Cup for the fourth year on the spin, and Hook has a unique piece of history against her name – she’s currently the only female rugby league player to have scored more than one try at Wembley, and the only one to have scored in more than one game at the national stadium.

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St Helens’ dual-code star details the butterfly effect which led her to becoming a double try-scorer at Wembley

The youngster wasn’t even planning on remaining in the country until Saints came calling, with plans to travel the world come the conclusion of her university studies.

But having finished a course in psychology, she’s now planning to embark on a Masters in sports psychology, all the while hoping to continue shining while donning the famous Red V.

Hook told Love Rugby League: “Last March, I got spotted in a rugby union match and got asked if I wanted to come down (to Saints) for a trial.

“From there, I was training with the girls regularly, and then a spot (in the squad) came up for me.

“I made my debut in July, and then played at Wembley in the August, which was pretty unreal.

“I feel like I didn’t really think about how big it was until afterwards, and then realisation sets in and you’re like, ‘wow!’

“My whole week is surrounded by rugby now, everything I do is for a game at the weekend or for training or whatever it might be.

“It has pretty much taken over my whole life, but it’s something that I really love.

“I’ve always wanted to be an athlete, and I’ve done various sports in my life, but to be able to have a purpose has been a really good driver for me.”

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‘If I’d never gone back into union, then I probably wouldn’t be stood here right now’

Having scored again at Wembley on Saturday, it’s now 18 tries in 19 senior appearances for Hook, including 11 in 10 appearances across all competitions this year alone.

Describing her journey, she explained: “I was always the sporty one, because I grew up in a really sporty family.

“Netball and athletics were staples for me growing up, and then getting into rugby when I was 13 playing on the little pitches, I’ve played at county level, and for England Under-18s in union.

“But I broke my leg, and I had a stress fracture. When I came to uni, I said I didn’t want to play anymore – I quit basically.

“It wasn’t until second year that I joined again, and then Saints happened! Rugby league wasn’t brand new to me.

“I’d supported Huddersfield Giants for a little bit – some of the girls who I knew from playing rugby union would sometimes go there on a Friday night to watch Giants and I’d go with them, but I’d never played it, I’d just always stuck to union.

“It’s one of those things though, the butterfly effect. If I’d never gone back into union, then I probably wouldn’t be stood here right now (as a two-time Wembley winner).”

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‘I would do it without the money, we all would because we just love it, but it does help’

Ahead of the start of the campaign, Saints announced that their female players would receive match payments for the first time ever.

Those help players like Hook with the cost of getting to and from training and matches, and are reward for their efforts, as she explains: “It’s massive just for the game and for us as women in general that we’ve been recognised.

“The club are wanting to pay us for the efforts that we put in. I would do it without the money, we all would because we just love it, but it does help.

“It adds that professionalism that hopefully is going to develop even more in the future. I would like it one day to be fully professional, and I definitely think we could get there one day.

“That perhaps might not be in the near future, but the payments from Saints and from other clubs (to their players) was that step that it needed for it to even be a possibility at some point in the future.”

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