YORK Valkyrie captain Sinead Peach has announced that she is pregnant.

The reigning Woman of Steel is due to welcome her first child with partner Callum Curzon later this year.

Peach will remain as a core member of the Valkyrie’s squad throughout her pregnancy, and has been one of the club’s water girls for their opening fixtures of the 2024 season – including Sunday’s thrilling 20-16 victory over title rivals St Helens.

Appointed captain ahead of the 2023 season, the hooker led the Valkyrie to a historic second Betfred Women’s Super League Leaders’ Shield and first Grand Final victory in her first year in the role.

She follows in the footsteps of teammate Kelsey Gentles, who has now returned to playing after missing the entirety of last season after the birth of her daughter with former York Knights centre Jacob Ogden.

Discussing her pregnancy, Peach explained: “It was a surprise to us both, but an amazing surprise at that.

“Everyone that we’ve told couldn’t have been more happy and supportive for us.

“When I told Lindsay [Anfield, Director of Rugby] and Clint [Goodchild, Chairman], they said to me that it’s going to be the most magical time of my life and a new chapter that’s just starting. The club have said they’ll support me all the way and I’ve also had such amazing support from all the girls too.

“I’m still young and rugby league is my life, so I will be back on the field next year, all being well. I’ll just have my baby watching from the crowd!

“I’m still very much involved with the girls. I’m just taking an off-field approach as captain this year. I will be at every training session and I’m getting involved in everything apart from the contact.

“I’ll still be a leader off the field and helping in every area that I can, including working with Georgie [Hetherington], who’s moved to hooker and done a great job there so far.

“I’m still working really closely with the girls and supporting them just as much as I always have. Personally I’m still working as hard as I can, so nothing much has changed just yet!”

The 25-year-old made history during the off-season as the Valkyrie became the first women’s rugby team in the country to be awarded professional contracts, offering a part-time wage similar to that of the men’s Betfred Championship and League One competitions.

One important aspect of that has been maternity provisions, allowing the club’s players to continue to receive support should they decide to start a family.

“To have that maternity payment gives me a massive sense of security,” she admitted. “I’m so thankful to the club to have it in my contract.

Peach followed Anfield to the club from Castleford Tigers in 2021, and had been nominated for the prestigious Woman of Steel in every season during her time at York before winning the award last season.

The director of rugby added: “I’m delighted for Sinead and Callum and we’re looking forward to welcoming the next member of the Valkyrie family!

“I’ve known Sinead since she was 16 playing schoolgirl rugby league, so it’s been amazing to be part of her journey both as a player and a person especially as she now enters this next chapter in her life.

“Sinead will keep herself as fit as possible throughout her pregnancy, I’m sure, and we’ll help her as much as we possibly can as she aims to return next season.

“I’m also delighted that Sinead will be supported by the Club through maternity leave payment, which is a massive statement and shows that we’re investing in our players, even when they’re not out there on the field and they choose to start a family.”

Chairman Goodchild also offered his congratulations, hoping that the club will help set the trend that players do not have to wait until the end of their careers to start a family.

He added: “Everyone at the club is delighted for Sinead and her partner Callum and it’s exciting to have another addition to the Peach family and the rugby league family.

“Sinead will remain a vital member of our squad this year, as a support to the girls and a leader off-the-field.

“We’re really glad that we can offer support to our players through the maternity leave payments in their professional contracts.

“We want our players to be able to pursue all avenues of life and not be restricted by being an athlete. Hopefully this sets a trend for the sport and we can continue to push forward in this area.”

Tara Jane Stanley will now assume the Valkyrie’s on-field captaincy for 2024, with half-back Sade Rihari supporting her as Vice Captain.