Rugby League

Women's Challenge Cup

17 May 2024

Warriors woman still young at heart | Betfred Women's Challenge Cup Semi-Finals

Warriors woman still young at heart | Betfred Women's Challenge Cup Semi-Finals

In 2013, legendary Australian Steve Menzies played Super League for Catalans Dragons at the ripe old age of 39.  

But this year Holly Speakman went one better in the women’s game when she took to the field against Salford Red Devils in Wigan Warriors’ opening group match of the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup, having turned 40 just after the end of the 2023 season.

And now, Bolton-born Holly is aiming to prove that life really does begin at 40 by leading the Warriors all the way to a date with destiny at Wembley Stadium. There’s just the small matter of a semi-final against the mighty Leeds Rhinos standing in her way.

Sunday’s game at St Helens will undoubtedly be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, of a career which began with Wigan in 2018 – the year they won the inaugural Women’s Super League title – and has seen her play 78 matches to date in the Cherry and White strip. Whatever the number, 40 or 78, Speakman is the most experienced player in the Wigan side.

And Speakman has continued to make history with the Wigan Warriors Women - just recently they played their opening Betfred Women's Super League match at Wigan's principal stadia - the first time the women's team played at game there.

Emerging 18-4 victors against Barrow Raiders, it was a proud moment for all involved - with Speakman's family in attendance for the historic occasion, including her young daughter Willow.


Speakman 2


Speakman took up Rugby League after son Brian told her, ‘If you can shout at me from the side-lines at St Pat’s then you can play the game yourself!' And she’s never looked back. 

“When Wigan decided to start a ladies’ team”, explained Speakman, “I went for trials, got selected and things just took off from there.

“Every year it's growing and growing, with more and more people coming down to watch us – and not just young people, but older ones too. Girls are getting more are interested in it. We've got a massive Academy now.

"The girls that are coming through, the talent that we've got, is amazing. I don't think some of these young girls actually realise how good they are and how high they can go.

“We all dream of playing at Wembley, but Leeds are a tough side. They always have been. They're physical and they're well drilled. We played them in the semis last year and it was a close game. We know what we've got to do to and I know this time we can come away with the win.

“Denis [Betts, Head Coach] has made massive improvements, bringing on everybody’s game. He always tells us ‘don't think too far ahead, just think of the game. Focus on it. See what happens from there’. He keeps us quite level headed, but his knowledge of Rugby League and what he's bringing to our game is massive. It's improving us week on week – especially the young ones coming through, they've adapted really well.”

Speakman’s Wigan Warriors play Leeds Rhinos at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Sunday in a repeat of last year's semi-final which saw the Rhinos win 16-4. Will there be another close contest this time around?


Watch Wigan Warriors v Leeds Rhinos' Semi-Final on Sunday 19 May, live on BBC iPlayer (K.O. 12:30pm).

General Admission tickets are also on sale for Sunday's Betfred Challenge Cup double-header. Click here to purchase!


A full Betfred Women's Challenge Cup Semi-Finals Preview can be found here.


The Betfred Women's Challenge Cup Final (KO 11.45am) will once again be part of a Finals Day triple-header at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 8 June, alongside the final of the Betfred Men’s Challenge Cup (KO 3pm) and the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final (KO 5.45pm). Plus, there will be the traditional Year 7 Boys’ Champion Schools Final at 10am. Tickets are available online now from only £20 Adults and £10 Under 16s, with family packages also available.