St Helens handed huge injury boost as dream Wembley appearance eyed

Jodie Cunningham has declared herself fit for St Helens. Picture: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty ImagesJodie Cunningham has declared herself fit for St Helens. Picture: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images
Jodie Cunningham has declared herself fit for St Helens. Picture: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images | Getty Images
St Helens take on York Valkyrie in the Women’s Challenge Cup semi-final.

Matty Smith knows what it is like to win at Wembley and he is hoping to pass on his vast playing experience to the girls under his wings as St Helens bid to reach the final of the Women's Challenge Cup at the Mecca of British sport next month.

But the 35-year-old son of St Helens, who was named Lance Todd man of the match in Wigan's 16-0 Challenge Cup victory over Hull FC a decade ago is in his first season coaching the town's ladies' team. Smith is fully aware that the trophy holders face a tough examination when they go toe-to-toe with York Valkyrie in the semi-final of this year's competition at Warrington tomorrow (Saturday).

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

One-time England international half back Smith said: "It will be the biggest moment of my short coaching career if we reach Wembley and the same applies to the girls.

"We are facing a big semi-final against an in-form York side who are top of the league table but we will be ready for the challenge."

Holders St Helens were also given a major boost this week when skipper Jodie Cunningham declared herself fit after an absence of a few weeks following knee surgery.

She said: "I can't put into words what it would be like to play at Wembley. I haven't been thinking of anything else since the announcement was made that the iconic stadium would stage the women's final for the first time .

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"The chance to get there feels huge. It's so momentous for me because that's how I fell in love with the sport."

Zoe Harris could feature as well after picking up a knock during the Saints’ game against York at the Women’s Nines Finals Day in June.

It could be a big day, too, for Lucie Sams who is named in the 21-woman squad for the first time this season since joining St. Helens from Wigan Warriors in the off-season.

Young centre Erin Stott, who recently joined the Saints and has impressed in league matches against Huddersfield and Warrington, is cup-tied and, therefore, unavailable for selection.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Squad: Rebecca Rotheram, 2. Luci McColm, 3. Eboni Partington, 4. Naomi Williams, 6. Zoe Harris, 7. Faye Gaskin, 8. Shona Hoyle, 9. Tara Jones, 10. Chantelle Crowl, 11. Paige Travis, 12. Emily Rudge, 13. Jodie Cunningham, 14. Vicky Whitfield, 15. Lucie Sams, 16. Darcy Stott, 17. Philippa Birchall, 18. Alyx Bridge, 19. Katie Mottershead, 21. Amy Taylor, 25. Danielle McGifford, 28. Phoebe Hook.

The St Helens women’s side are up first and will take on York Valkyrie at 11.45am, with the men's first team semi-final against Leigh Leopards following at 2.30pm.

A bumper crowd is expected for both matches which will feature live on TV - the ladies' showdown available on BBC iPlayer and the Saints-Leigh clash screened by BBC 1.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.