Gemma Walsh gives us an insight into what life has been like after an impressive debut season in the Women’s Super League which saw the Warriors crowned 2018 Champions.
Wigan Warriors Women skipper talks about 2018, pre-season and the team’s hopes for next year.
- Walsh: “We all can’t wait to get the Christmas break out of the way and get back started properly.”
The Wigan Warriors Women will begin their title defence in April as they embark on their second season in the Super League under the guidance of Amanda Wilkinson.
It’s been two months since you beat Leeds in a thrilling Grand Final. Has it sunk in yet?
“Honestly, no it still hasn’t sunk in that we went and won the Grand Final. I thought before the game we were more than capable of winning it and if we stuck to our game plan and played to our strengths we would come away with the win, and a win it was!”
Talk us through that final, it was a tense finish with the drop goal winning it – what was that like as a captain to create history as Wigan made it a Grand Final treble in 2018?
“The whole game was a bit of a blur for me, I’d been ill all week, unable to train and was running on complete emptiness, but the girls and the whole backroom staff got me through the game. I thought we were cruising when we got a couple of tries in front. We had the momentum and we were in complete control but Leeds are a quality team and scored a couple of quick tries to level it up.”
“I always felt like we had enough in us to win the game and when we got the penalty with a minute or so left I knew that was it. I remember taking the ball in on the last play and then the next thing I was at the bottom of a huge pile on! For the men to go on and win their Grand Final just shows what a great club Wigan is and 2018 will definitely take some beating.”
You worked your socks off last season, but what was your personal highlight?
“The highlight for me personally, apart from lifting the trophy in the Grand Final, would be beating St Helens three times from three. As a Wigan born player, that fixture is the one you look out for when the games are released, so to beat them twice in the League and then in the Semi-Final play-off was special.”
Wigan were seen as a bit of an underdog last year, as it was a completely new set up. Do you think that’s changed now?
“From the teams’ point of view, I don’t think we ever saw ourselves as underdogs. We knew we had talent within our squad and we knew what we were capable of from the very first game when we comfortably beat Featherstone Rovers who had finished second the year before. If other teams want to see us as underdogs then that can work in our favour, but I think the other teams will respect us a little bit more next year given that we’ll be coming into this season as the reigning Champions.”
You are just coming into pre-season now and it’s looking like there could be a few new names joining too. How has it been so far?
“There’s been a real buzz around pre-season. It’s been good to see new faces and get to know some new players that have been brought in and there’s some more exciting talent that you see around the gym. We all can’t wait to get the Christmas break out of the way and get back started properly.”
There’s an extra team in the mix up too with Wakefield Trinity Ladies coming up to the Super League which gives you two extra fixtures and a new opponent for this year. What are your thoughts on this?
“I think Wakefield coming up is nothing but good news for the game of Rugby League. They were stand outs in the Championship and deservedly earned their right to play in the Super League. I personally know a few of the Wakefield girls and they have some quality and experiences players, so it’ll be really interesting to see how they go! It’ll be better for momentum too having a fixture instead of the week off.”
Finally, what is the aim this year? We know Wigan narrowly missed out on being League Leaders and had a good run in the Challenge Cup too – what can you do differently this year?
“I think our aim this year is to build on the culture and environment that we started last season. We are the defending Women’s Super League Champions so to defend our title is up there, but we know we can go one better in the Challenge Cup this year and we only narrowly missed out on finishing top of the league, so aiming for the other two pieces of silverware is something we’ll be looking to improve on this time around.”