WARRINGTON-born Emily Rudge suffered last-minute heartbreak in both the Super League play-offs and Challenge Cup semi-finals with St Helens Women in 2019, but the current England captain knows what it takes to tackle adversity and achieve your goals, writes Harry Ewbank.

In 2008, a 16-year-old Rudge wouldn’t in her wildest dreams have been able to envisage the path she has been on to help towards putting Women’s Rugby League on the map in England.

As an amateur at Thatto Heath Crusaders she received a shock England call-up ahead of the World Cup in Australia.

Twelve years on and the former Cardinal Newman High School student is England captain, married to former captain Gemma Walsh, and is an integral part of building towards a home World Cup in 2021.

Her path to changing the face of the women’s game has been by no means easy, but she always stuck at it ever since her first ventures into the unknown.

“I started in primary school and really enjoyed tag, so my dad and my granddad – who are big on rugby – took me down to the local boys' team when I was 10 and I’ve just had a love for it ever since," said Rudge.

“I liked the physical side of it and it’s something I hadn’t experienced in any other sports before.”

In a game which is yet to be made professional, the struggles were yet more evident for Rudge over 15 years ago.

She played for Woolston Rovers boys’ team at under 11s and under 12s level, but the ease of playing her beloved rugby league faded from then on.

“I had to travel over an hour to Rochdale to play for a girls' side," she said.

“After that year my dad decided to set up a girls’ team in Warrington.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Despite knockbacks in the past 12 months, there has also been a great deal to be positive about as the England star gained many plaudits.

The 28-year-old received a nomination for the Woman of Steel Award, which was won by Leeds Rhinos' Courtney Hill, while also putting in a heroic captain's shift in England’s one win in Papua New Guinea in a series drawn 1-1.

The first Test victory saw Rudge, a PE teacher, set an England Women’s record in scoring four tries in a 24-10 win.

The tour saw the squad paid while away on the trip, and despite the difficulties facing rugby league at the moment she is quietly confident of an affluent future for the sport she has grown up with.

“Building towards the 2021 World Cup is the next big focus,” said Rudge.

“If we get the best possible England squad together and if we are successful it would give the women's game a huge boost and I’d like to see women getting paid at club level or for England.

“Getting paid on last year’s tour with England was a step in the right direction and I think it would improve the quality in the sport and there would be a lot more talent to select from.”