23/10/2019

Women’s Super League: St Helens’ Jodie Cunningham finds the right balance between work and play


Jodie Cunningham is hard at work inspiring the next generation of players within her ambassador role.
But her spare time is devoted to rugby league as well, together with Cunningham having to fit playing and training as full-back for St Helens in the Women’s Super League (WSL) about her day-job.
It’s a situation familiar to nearly all of her team-mates and Saints’ rivals in the WSL, which for now, at least remains a completely amateur competition.
Being employed within the sport means that the England international has the significant function, something which Cunningham understands the significance for anyone attempting to juggle sporting and job commitments.
“Any of those women who are balancing a fulltime occupation, it is possible to fit the hours ” Cunningham told Sky Sports.
“It is just with training you may have to set last-minute training sessions in or you might require physio appointments, therefore it’s just getting that flexibility from the employer so you can come from work a little bit later or earlier.
“From an individual perspective, the World Cup are fantastic and support me in what I do, and since the sport is growing, becoming more popular and people are more conscious of it, I believe companies will also be seeing exactly what a value there is in with one of their employees representing a Women’s Super League team and playing at international level.
“Everything is helping to develop this understanding and raise the standards.”
Preparations at the moment are currently focusing on this particular Sunday, in which Saints carry on Leeds Rhinos to the right to confront either Castleford Tigers or reigning champions Wigan Warriors in the WSL Grand Final on Friday.
It is the second year St Helens have left the best four, finishing third in the regular season in 2018 and following that up by completing only 1 point behind League Leaders’ Shield winners Castleford – end the Tigers’ unbeaten record with a 20-14 win last Sunday in the procedure.
Having linked up with Cunningham’s former club Thatto Heath to help get the team off the ground for the WSL season, Saints have quickly integrated the team into their set up – like holding a new joint training session using all the men’s and women’s teams.
It’s a source of pride for Cunningham and her team-mates they step out on the field to be pulling on the shirt of one of league clubs.
“It was a new team they had to integrate into the current set up, but it’s been fantastic,” Cunningham said.
“[Head coach] Derek Hardman was engaged at Saints for a number of years in different roles, so that actually helped that he was already part of their club.
“This yearI feel as if they’ve really taken us under their wing and they are getting behind us in terms of marketing and media, and we actually do fell part of this club.
“it is a unique golf club and the women have so much pride when they put that shirt and are connected with the St Helens brandnew. It has been brilliant and I can only imagine it’ll grow and get better.”
This year, after enhancing their league setting, St Helens’ target is to get through the Grand Final after heading down 10-6 to fierce rivals Wigan at the semis at 2018.
If they conquer Women’s Challenge Cup champions Leeds on Sunday, Saints will have a final to look ahead to as this year’s showpiece game – that is live on Sky Sports – has been played in the Totally Wicked Stadium.
“It is even more strain on us to arrive, but it is fantastic,” Cunningham explained. “When people do manage to reach this Grand Final, it’d be great to get it done on our home ground and ideally with a lot of Saints fans there.
But we are trying to not consider this too much. There’s pressure from the club, on ourselves as gamers because we believed we had a excellent enough squad and fell.
“Everything is just going into Sunday’s match and ensuring we do like we all know we can.”

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