St Helens centre Amy Hardcastle is confident her decision to join the club from Bradford Bulls last year will be clear for all to see when the Women’s Super League finally returns this weekend after a break of almost 18 months.
The England international joined Saints last May with the intention of putting herself in the best possible position to reach her full potential ahead of a home World Cup later this year.
And while she has had to wait almost a year to make her debut for her new club, she can see that the time off from the game has been worthwhile.
“I have a bit of travelling to do now, but I tend to leave everything else behind in Yorkshire and when I’m at the club I can just focus on my rugby,” says Hardcastle, who last year was the only English player named by the RFL in the Women’s International Team of the Decade named by the NRL.
“I really do believe I am performing a lot better because those outside pressures are off me.
“As well as doing all the work with St Helens, we have been in training with England since January and going into sessions I can see that my core skills, fitness levels and my vision in my role as a centre have all improved.
“Going back into the centre from being in the second row at Bradford, I do see a difference in myself as an athlete.
“I just hope that I can keep getting better and hopefully once games are underway all that starts showing on the field.”
Hardcastle’s first game for Saints will come against the Bradford side she previously captained. But any sentiment will firmly be put to one side as she aims to help Saints make a winning start to what she hopes can be a successful season for her new side.
“I don’t think you could have made it up that that my first game would be against Bradford,” adds Hardcastle.
“There are still a few girls there that I speak to and I wish them all the best for the season, but regardless of the years I spent there, they are just another team now that I want to go out, play against and win.
“Across the whole team at St Helens everyone is working hard and doing the extras. We want to be a top team this year and we want everyone to be taking about us
“We want to be lifting that silverware at the end of the year and we are very focussed on what we want to achieve. The way we’re all going, there is no reason why we can’t do it.”
The season finally getting underway comes as something of a blessing to Hardcastle, who, as a Health Care Assistant at Calderdale Hospital’s A&E department, has spent the last year on the front line of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Not too long ago we were still getting big numbers of Covid patients coming through A&E but I have definitely noticed a fall in those numbers in the last month to six weeks,” she says.
“The department has been flipped back to how it used to be before Covid, so that is really promising as well.
“Once that change happened it gave me so much more hope for the situation and that the season might actually happen.
“If the vaccination programme wasn’t going as well as it has, we might not have got a season going ahead at all and at one stage I was very anxious we wouldn’t get to this point.
“But with the way the numbers are going, we are getting close to some sort of normality, so it’s great we can finally get the season started.”
Women’s Super League 2021 – opening round fixtures
Sunday April 18: Bradford Bulls v St Helens, Wigan Warriors v Warrington Wolves (both at Victoria Park, Warrington); Castleford Tigers v Featherstone Rovers, Leeds Rhinos v York City Knights (both at Weetwood, Leeds).
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