AS the sun sets on a successful debut season for the renamed York Valkyrie, we spoke to chairman Clint Goodchild about a year to remember.

In the first of our three-part interview, Goodchild discusses the club’s historic Betfred Women’s Super League Leaders’ Shield and Grand Final successes, competing with the NRLW and the possibility of a first-ever Women’s World Club Challenge.

A second consecutive League Leaders’ Shield and a first Grand Final win, what a debut year it’s been for the Valkyrie.

“It’s been an incredible year. They’re history makers, aren’t they?

“There were some changes in the off-season coming into this year that we hoped people in the community would buy in to, particularly the renaming of the women’s team into the Valkyrie.

“When you say the York Valkyrie, you don’t question which team you’re talking about, you know exactly who you’re talking about.

“They’ve earned the right to have that identity and they’ve put pride in that badge. They’re the first players this year to ever represent that badge, and that’s theirs.

“It’s just been a real privilege to see how they go about everything that they do, and that all stems from the top that comes from Lindsay into that playing group.

“She’s just such a force to be reckoned with, and such a trusted piece of this club’s puzzle in how she carries herself, her work ethic, her commitment to constant improvement. And it’s also real recognition of the team she’s got around her in her support staff.

“The ladies were, I believe, stronger and fitter than they were last year. I believe that the playing group bought in and committed to doing more and you can’t argue with the results.

“They’re the team that’s sitting at the top of the tree in the league right now, but I can also tell you that there’s a great deal of hunger there to go and get more next year.”

And a second consecutive Woman of Steel winner in Sinead Peach…

“We have two Women of Steel now – Tara winning it last year and Sinead winning it this year.

“I would like to think that we can get it for a third year in a row and it’d be another player again. That’s a really good sign of a team that’s strong on a number of fronts.

“I would love to see someone else being in the nominations for that award next year that hasn’t been, and there’s plenty of players in that team that could rise to that challenge.”

Two trophies, but drop-goal heartbreak at St Helens in the Challenge Cup Semi Final…

“The major focus is to try and get the treble and to try and take that one step further and step foot on Wembley in that Final.

“There’s no secret that we were disappointed that we let that opportunity slip. But I also believe that if we hadn’t gone through that disappointment, we wouldn’t have been the team we were at the end of the season.

“The galvanisation of that team spirit, how they went about it and how they trained for that next opportunity. I think it shone really brightly in the Grand Final.”

This time last year, you announced that the Valkyrie would be paid from the 2023 season. Is that something that you’ll be looking to continue for 2024?

“Absolutely. It’s something that we’re going to look at closely again and see if there’s more opportunities there and really review how we feel it went this year.

“The one thing I can tell you is that it won’t be a worse case situation for anyone involved. It’s just a matter of making sure that we’re getting it right. For me, I think that the results speak for themselves and have justified the investment and support that we’ve shown.”

We’ve seen players join sides in the NRLW this season. How hard is it to compete and keep players here in England?

“It’ll be an interesting off season.

“I think that a lot of the NRLW clubs obviously have been watching and I think they’ve also seen that the talent coming through the system over here can compete and can win in the NRLW. Looking at [former Leeds Rhinos half-back] Georgia Roche, she’s won that on both sides. She’s won it in both Australia and the UK, which is an incredible achievement.

“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they start to look at our talent and look to fill squad positions. It’s going to be a challenge for us to compete with the financial opportunities and the full-time professional nature of what Australia is doing in rugby league.

“But I do think that the development of players is still best suited to being here in the UK until they get to an international level to where their careers can continue beyond what we can provide.

“I’m very excited about the squad that we have leading into next year and I believe that every girl in this squad wants to defend their title, now they can just chase it.”

The World Club Challenge has been contested regularly in the men’s game. Now that the Valkyrie are Champions, would that be something that you would look into with the NRLW?

“It’s very interesting that you ask that. I’ll just say that conversations are taking place.

“Anytime you do something that’s never been done before, there’s a lot of hurdles that you have to jump over, and there’s a lot of convincing that needs to take place.

“But I believe if the two clubs are committed to doing everything they can to make that happen, and that the governing bodies get on board, that there will be a huge amount of support from both the UK and Australia to be able to turn it around.

“It’s a week since we’ve won it, so it’s very early discussions. But so far, everything is a positive reaction, so hopefully that positive reaction can become positive motion.”