Just a day after announcing that club legend James Roby had stepped into a coaching role, St Helens have confirmed that current women’s captain Jodie Cunningham will also join the club’s coaching staff as Head of Women’s Pathways & Performance.
Cunningham skippered Saints to victory at Wembley in the Challenge Cup in 2023, the first women’s final ever to be played at the national stadium, whilst also captaining her nation in their friendly against France.
The club have now elevated her to the coaching staff where she will work alongside head coach Matty Smith but with the primary focus on the pathways. She will also continue playing under Smith, the loose forward having no intention to hang up the boots just yet.
Saints confirmed the appointment of Cunningham to this role just less than a day after confirming that the recently retired men’s captain James Roby had been appointed to the role of Leadership, Culture & Performance Coach.
It’s brilliant to see clubs continue to help their legends progress beyond their playing days, in spite of the fact Cunningham is still in the midst of her playing career.
The Red Vee confirmed the appointment of Cunningham to the coaching staff via a press release through their website that read: “St Helens R.F.C. is thrilled to announce that our Women’s team and current England captain Jodie Cunningham has officially joined the Saints’ staff in a new role at the Club!
“An iconic figure in the growth of Women’s & Girls Rugby League, Jodie Cunningham has been with the Saints since the formation year of our Women’s team in 2018 and has been an incredible ambassador for not only the Club but the wider sport as a whole.
“Cunningham was named co-captain of St Helens Women in 2019 before becoming sole captain in 2021, the year our team completed an historic treble with the Women’s; Challenge Cup, League Leaders’ Shield and Super League trophies.
“Furthermore, in that season she received the Woman Of Steel Award as the best player in the Betfred Women’s Super League. Saints’ #13 is a proven leader, Cunningham has helped guide the Red V to an astonishing three straight Women’s Challenge Cups, the latest of which in 2023 saw our team make even more history by becoming the first women’s rugby league side to win at Wembley Stadium.
“As a trailblazer and inspiration for more young players to participate in rugby league, Jodie has been working with the Rugby Football League for the past three years as the National Women’s & Girls’ Development Manager, strengthening pathways for player development.”
On the new role Cunningham told saintsrlfc.com: “It’s an exciting new role, I think it just shows the growth of the women’s game but also how seriously St Helens as a club are taking the women’s game.
“To have somebody designated to look at the operations and the pathways specifically for the women and just pull everything together and make sure they’re fully integrated into the club and the performance department as well. It’s an exciting position and hopefully, I can do it justice!”
On the fact that she will remain an active player Cunningham explained: “Hopefully being around the club more will give me a little bit more of a balance and being able to have access to Matty and help bring everyone along. I think this will help me personally be the best that I can be, by being around this environment on a regular basis.
“Specifically leading on the women and girls game in this role hopefully, I can bring all my experience, all the development that I’ve done there to a more local level in St Helens and help grow the number of girls playing in St Helens. Working with the community teams to make sure that pathways are all in place so that we have the best young talent coming through and feeding into this women’s side so we we’re lifting trophies in the near future but also for many years to come as well.”
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