Jodie Cunningham has been here before, and yet this is also very, very new. The St Helens full-back has four Betfred Women's Challenge Cup wins under her belt, but Saturday’s final against York City Knights at Leigh Sports Village is a very different prospect to any of her successes with Thatto Heath and Warrington.
“It feels completely different now it’s the Women's Super League, it’s like everything’s just stepped up another level,” says the England international, who knows that this is a great chance at glory for a Saints side which has failed to make an impression on the Challenge Cup in recent years.
“Yes, St Helens hasn't been on it, but we’re hoping to change that at the weekend and I’m more than confident in the team. I know that we can do it, we just need to perform, focus on ourselves and stick to our processes like we did in the semi-final.”
That semi-final saw Saints edge out Leeds Rhinos 20-12 at the LNER Community Stadium in York shortly after the Knights had written an incredible tale by beating Castleford Tigers 32-4 to reach their first final. York’s win was masterminded by new director of rugby Lindsay Anfield, who had only recently quit as Castleford’s head coach to take on the Knights job.
There has been a huge injection of new playing talent in a short space of time too, with Kelsey Gentles among a number of players to join Anfield in swapping Castleford for York.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” admits Gentles ahead of Saturday’s showpiece. “We’ve just kind of come in and just gone from zero to 100, and it’s been good but it’s still a lot to deal with. We can't believe that we’re going to the Challenge Cup final after only being a team for two weeks, if that!
“It’s been incredible, you know, we’ve got that team spirit and kind of like being the underdogs. Saints have never played us, we’ve never played them, so we don’t really know what to expect. It’s going to be a brand new game and we’ve just got to play our own game and try to keep them at bay.”
Saturday’s final will be televised live on BBC Two, giving women’s rugby league its biggest platform yet on national television. The 11:15BST kick-off comes as the first game of a triple-header at LSV, with the men’s Challenge Cup semi-finals following straight after.