Sinead Peach salutes NRLW success stories as Woman of Steel targets more silverware

Ross Heppenstall
Sinead Peach York Valkyrie Alamy

York star Sinead Peach lifts the Women's Super League trophy in 2023

Sinead Peach filled an entire table with her friends and family when she was crowned the 2023 Woman of Steel in Manchester last October.

It said much for the tight-knit support she has enjoyed during a career which reached a glorious crescendo at the glittering awards ceremony at Lancashire County Cricket Club six months ago.

Now the York Valkyrie captain, who helped her club to a maiden Grand Final win last year, aims to do it all again when the new Women’s Super League campaign kicks off.

Being officially recognised as the best women’s player in the British game marked the realisation of a childhood dream for the talented hooker from Hunslet in South Leeds.

“I thought to myself before the awards evening ‘if I am the Woman of Steel, then I want everyone to be there’, so they all came,” Peach told Love Rugby League.

“I did say ‘look guys, I might not win it, so just enjoy the night’ but luckily they didn’t waste their tickets!

“It was a really special occasion and bloomin’ heck, when I look back at when I was a young girl it was something I could only have dreamed of.

“I remember when Georgia Roche won it in 2018 and I played in the same team as her at Castleford Tigers.

“I was thinking ‘that is absolutely amazing what she’s done’.

“I never thought I would get that kind of recognition but, with having such a great team and a great staff around me here at York, I achieved it.”

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Sinead Peach hails the ‘inspiring’ by British success stories in the NRLW

At 25, Peach is entering her prime years and she has become an increasingly recognisable face of the women’s game.

Certainly her success last year will have not gone unnoticed down under.

Peach, though, was not among the group of English women who were approached by NRLW clubs to join the newly-expanded competition last year.

Not that she is ruling out the prospect of plying her trade on the other side of the world one day.

Peach watched on with admiration as her English contemporaries Georgia Roche, Francesca Goldthorp and Hollie-Mae Dodd headed to the NRLW in 2023.

“I haven’t had a message from any NRLW clubs yet, but if I got approached then obviously I would have that conversation,” said Peach, who grew up supporting League 1 outfit Hunslet.

“Then again, I’ve got a mortgage and a house with my partner, plus a really good job as an office manager at a car dealership in Leeds.

“Work are really supportive of me with my rugby league commitments because they know how much I love it and how much it’s growing as a sport.

“They fully back me and partner, bless him, prepares all my food for the week ahead on a Monday night.

“My whole family are very much immersed in rugby league, so without them I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.

“But is it inspiring to see what the English girls are doing over there? Absolutely.

“You only live once so it would be something to consider, for sure, if it the opportunity ever arose. But it hasn’t yet.”

Georgia Roche Newcastle Knights Alamy
Georgia Roche in action for Newcastle Knights in the NRLW

Roche helped Newcastle Knights to Grand Final glory against Gold Coast Titans in her debut season, while Goldthorp’s performances for North Queensland Cowboys saw her crowned the club’s 2023 NRLW Rookie of the Year.

Dodd, meanwhile, was cruelly struck down by a season-ending ACL injury last September when playing for Canberra Raiders in a 34-12 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys.

The 20-year-old had made a fine start to life in the Australian capital before being sidelined.

She made history when becoming the first English woman to sign a professional NRLW contract last April and three months later made her Canberra debut against Cronulla Sharks.

Dodd scored her first Raiders try against Wests Tigers last August, becoming the first English woman to score in the competition before injury struck.

Dodd remains close to her former York team-mates and Peach revealed: “Hollie’s still very much one of us and is still in and around the club when she’s back in England.

“She spent time with us in pre-season when doing her rehab from injury and she’s back on her feet now and running.

“It’s been good to get a little insight from Hollie into what life is like in Australia.

“She is showing the kind of progression that can be made but is still being supported by York as well, which is fantastic.”

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Home is where the heart is for reigning Woman of Steel

Sinead Peach England Alamy
Sinead Peach in action for England in 2023

Home is where the heart is for Yorkshire girl Peach, but there is nothing to stop her moving to the NRLW if a club came calling.

Peach, Liv Wood and Tara Jane Stanley were the first three York players to sign professional two-year contracts with the club.

Significantly, in a huge sign of the progress that has been made in the women’s game, 20 Valkyrie players are now on two-year professional deals.

While not full-time, the contracts include base salaries, performance-related bonuses, NRLW clauses and maternity leave pay.

Peach explained: “The contracts we have here at York have a clause whereby, if an NRLW club wants you, then you’re able to go.

“Clint Goodchild, our owner, is obviously showing his backing for us in that regard, but like I said it’s not even come up.”

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York Valkyrie captain hungry for more silverware

Peach missed the home World Cup in 2022 after missing out on selection, despite being shortlisted for the Woman of Steel in 2021 and 2022.

However, she enjoyed a try-scoring contribution in Stu Barrow’s first game as England women’s coach in last April’s 64-0 demolition of France at Warrington.

Peach was involved again when England thumped Wales 60-0 as part of a double-header with the men’s team playing Tonga at Headingley last November.

Now she wants to help Lindsay Anfield’s reigning Super League champions to retain their crown but is expecting strong competition from rivals Leeds Rhinos and St Helens, plus Wigan Warriors too.

Peach added: “When you speak to all the girls and coaching staff, you set out to win more trophies but it’s a long old season.

“What we said last year was ‘take it game by game, push each other’s boundaries and reassess after every game but keep improving and we’ll see where we get to’.

“That’s the plan again this year and I’m really excited for the season ahead.”

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