We caught up with newly-appointed Braford Bulls captain and England International Amy Hardcastle who has become one of the most recognisable faces in Women’s Rugby League in recent years.
Amy, who was born in Halifax and has represented the England international team since 2009, sat down with us to talk of her international career, personal life, her mentors and her predictions for the women’s game to our Women’s Rugby League reporter CJ Adams-Richardson in this exclusive interview for Serious About Rugby League.
CJ: “Congratulations on the Captaincy. Did you have an idea it would come to you? Tell me about how started your rugby league career?”
AH: “I started playing rugby at age 18 with Siddal’s women’s team, I played football before.
“Whilst playing for Siddal I found out I was pregnant so took some time out and had a little girl, when I came back after one season, Siddal had unfortunately folded.
“I knew Kirsty Moroney, one of Bradford’s head coaches and she said come to Bradford, so I started at Clayton and Bradford Thunderbirds and it went from there.
“Last season I was appointed vice-captain, I really enjoyed the role and this year I was surprised to be given the opportunity, I’ve embraced it and are always looking to build this team on and off the pitch.
CJ: “How were you recognised at an international level?”
AH: “It was at Siddal, I was playing full back, I was noticed quite quickly by Brenda Dobek and within six months, I went into the development set up.
“Almost 10 years later I’m still playing, and I couldn’t be prouder. Last year I played in the Nines tournament and that was a massive sense of achievement I unfortunately couldn’t play the PNG tour due to personal reasons.”
CJ: “What is your greatest achievement in your rugby league career to date?”
AH: “It has got to be the coast-to-coast tour, 2017. I am great memories of the tour, the women and the experience.”
CJ: “Who inspires you as a teammate and why?”
AH: “Kirsty Moroney is my best friend, she has nurtured and mentored me from the beginning at Bradford and I am forever grateful to her.
“I can honestly say at this time in my career I value all players that I play with and against, both in the Women’s Super League and at international level.
“We are a big family on and off the pitch, it becomes more so when you face your international teammates in the league, they know you and you them, it makes it more challenging as you both try to outwit each other.”
CJ: “Moving forward onto the up and coming women’s super league, which team do you look forward to playing against and why?”
AH: “Definitely St Helens, they are an attacking team very tactical and unpredictable. They test you at all levels.”
CJ: “I’ve just met your sponsor Richard Maltby and his story as to how he met you and his support in your rugby career is commendable, what do you think other than extremely supportive sponsors like him, can be done to raise the profile of women’s RL?”
AH: “I think the way it’s gone with social media and its powerful impact, it has created an informative and easily accessible platform for our younger and existed supporters.
“Ralph Rimmer and you also are raising our profile, I’ve not heard of a female player reporting on our game and it’s much more personal now as you know what it’s like to enter a field and face these women week in week out.
“People look up to the likes of Ralph and you as you both know what you are taking about and supporters new and old will buy into the development of our game, I believe there is a lot of positives and support right now and it can only get better.”
CJ: “England have a new team. There seems to be more women, what is the morale like now and what are your plans for the future?”
AH: “It’s like a new start, there are 40 athletes there now, as opposed to the 26 at the PNG tour. That means more talent and more women who are potentially fighting for that shirt for the 2021 World Cup.
“I’m so happy that these women are given this opportunity, and if they are unfortunate to make it there, they have the Knights programme to develop them into the England moving forward for the 2025 World Cup, which is something we have never had.”
CJ: “On the back of that, the new league format could have a detrimental effect on international players what are your thoughts on the format and how could it potentially affect you as an England international?”
AH: “I think the new system is good as it will test our international players, but personally for me if Bradford don’t break the top four and I’m not taking anything away from the teams who don’t.
“I won’t play against the World Cup side and this will test me even further as an athlete. I understand why it has been done, but from a personal point of view I can not allow it to take me of my game by not being in the higher intensity games.
“With us only having that one chance to play we Bradford have to being it for every single one.”
CJ: “Lots to look forward to in your rugby career, what else do you have planned in your life?”
AH: “I work in an A&E as healthcare, so I’m planning to become a nurse and study for my TNA, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time.
“After the 2021 world cup, my partner AJ and I are planning to grow our family, I’d like to get married and we are planning to have more children.
I’d of loved to have done all that now but I knew I would regret not playing in the 2021 World Cup. There are lots of positives in my home, work and rugby career.”