ST HELENS’ Gemma Walsh has called time on her pioneering playing career after suffering an injury in pre-season.

Former England captain Walsh only joined St Helens for the 2020 season from Wigan Warriors, before the Covid-19 pandemic halted Rugby League.

This year she would have linked up with Saints in Super League with Emily Rudge, current England skipper and Walsh’s wife.

“After 21 years I think it’s finally time to hang up my boots once and for all and say goodbye to the game that has given me so much throughout the years,” Gemma said.

“Unfortunately, I picked up an injury in pre-season and it feels like my body has had enough and I feel the time has now come to give it a well-earned rest.

“I have loved every minute of my time playing the game I love. I will be forever thankful to all the players, coaches and backroom staff that helped make my journey as enjoyable as it has been.

“They say don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened and that’s exactly what I’ll be doing for the foreseeable.”

Walsh was part of England Women’s first game against France in 2007, also featuring in the 2008 and 2013 World Cups, as well as captaining Wigan to Women’s Super League glory in 2018.

Thomas Brindle, the RFL’s Head of Growth and the General Manager of the British Women's Super League, also worked with Walsh in the England set-up.

“Gemma has been one of the most significant figures in Women’s Rugby League during the major developments of the last couple of decades," he said.

“She was a fine player and demonstrated that on numerous occasions at domestic and international level, captaining her club and her country – and there’s a good argument that for a while she was one of the best players in the world.

“It’s cruel that the disruption caused by Covid-19 robbed her of a farewell season with Emily at St Helens, but she has left a major mark on Women’s Rugby League.”

Walsh’s retirement takes effect immediately, though the effect she had on Women’s Rugby League will not be forgotten anytime soon.