St Helens owner beaming like a Cheshire cat as women make history at Wembley

Saints beat Leeds Rhinos 22-8 to win the first Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final held at Wembley Stadium. They won the trophy for a third successive season.
St Helens players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final match against Leeds Rhinos at Wembley Stadium. Image: Tony Marshall/Getty ImagesSt Helens players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final match against Leeds Rhinos at Wembley Stadium. Image: Tony Marshall/Getty Images
St Helens players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final match against Leeds Rhinos at Wembley Stadium. Image: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Two Super League giants sat side-by-side in the VIP seats at Wembley on Saturday smiling like a Cheshire cat!

Saints’ supremo Eamonn McManus and his Leigh Leopards counterpart, straight-talking Derek Beaumont, had cause for an exuberant and extra special celebration after their clubs emerged triumphant at the iconic stadium. St Helens lifted the Women’s Challenge Cup at the expense of Leeds Rhinos and Leigh ending Hull KR’s dream of landing the men’s version of the competition.

Both men have ploughed some of their hard-earned money into the coffers of the two clubs and are now reping the rewards.

Since taking the helm at St Helens in the early part of the century, millionaire McManus has helped masterminded the men’s team to glorious heights - both domestically and on the world stage - and now the club’s women’s team are treading a similar path, as well spreading the word about a sport which in the past has hardly been given the credit it deserves.

Beaumont, too, has put his heart and soul into developing the Leopards and was rewarded by a first Wembley victory in more than half a century.

Players like St Helens and England skipper Jodie Cunningham also now know what it’s like to savour Challenge Cup glory at one of the world’s most iconic stadiums, instead of travelling to such basic grounds such as Crown Flatt, Dewsbury, Mount Pleasant, Batley and Heworth ARFLC for their so-called showpiece event.

But the women’s game is definitely on the upward trend and anyone interested in playing the sport, whatever age, can get in touch with their local club. You’ll never regret it!

St Helens players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final match against Leeds Rhinos at Wembley Stadium. Image: Tony Marshall/Getty ImagesSt Helens players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final match against Leeds Rhinos at Wembley Stadium. Image: Tony Marshall/Getty Images
St Helens players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final match against Leeds Rhinos at Wembley Stadium. Image: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

⚽ With soccer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup reaching the final stages in Australia I suspect some of Saints’ Aussie contingent will be keeping a close eye on this week’s last four meeting between the Matildas and England.

Did readers know that a women’s team from St Helens were pioneers of the sport and regarded as the second best in the country shortly after the end of World War I?

They helped lay the groundwork for the future, even though at one stage the FA banned girls playing the sport.

Dick Kerr’s munitions factory team from Preston were the top side in the country and proved this point by hammering deadly rivals St Helens Ladies 4-0 in front of 53,000 fans at Goodison Park - the home of Everton FC on December 7, 1920.