BEAMING Saints stand-off Zoe Harris proudly declared that winning the player of the match award in Saturday’s Challenge Cup Final win over Leeds Rhinos the highlight of her career so far.

Her sublime flat pass for the Phoebe Hook try assist, probing runs, kicking game and her line speed in defence earned her the nod in a very competitive field at Wembley.


But it has been quite a challenging career journey between finals for Harris, after she suffered three fractures to her spine late on in the 2023 cup final – ending her season prematurely.

Showing every ounce of that trademark tenacious Thatto Heath fighting spirit - first recovering her fitness and then reclaiming her place in the side – the number six's journey back culminated in a triumphant return to Wembley.

Harris said: “It's probably the highlight of my career so far. Getting to play at Wembley Stadium is just something that's incredible, but to get player of the match on top of that is all the stuff that dreams are made of.

“It was something I didn't expect - I was just doing my role out there and just getting my job done but I was surprised when I heard my name, but it's really good feeling.”


With Saints bringing in the hugely promising Beri Salihi in at full back at the start of the year, the position Harris played for much of last season, and with Amy Taylor partnering Faye Gaskin effectively in the halves it, it was not an easy team to break back into.

But Coach Matty Smith has paid tribute to how she responded to that particular challenge – and how she has delivered.

“Zoe was great for us last year and played outstandingly well until she got injured in that game at Wembley last year.

“But then she came back strong. Although she found herself out of the squad at the beginning of the year, she's a fighter and fought her way back in – something she has always done really well is reacting in a positive way.

“And that just shows the toughness of her and when she's come back in the last month, she's probably been one of our best players.

“So it is a credit to her to get to this point where now she stands with another trophy and another medal around the neck and a player of the match award to show where she's at and the kind of girl she is.”


Harris speaks in such a matter of fact manner in describing the injury she has recovered from – one she put up with for a couple days before getting it scanned and assessed.

She explains: “70 minutes into last year’s Wembley final, I got a couple of knees into my back and felt the pain straight away.

“After the game, we didn't think it was anything as serious and thought it was just muscle damage so went to the after party and went out a little bit afterwards, which probably didn't help. But when we came to parade the trophy the day after I was in absolute agony.

“It was only when the physio sent me for a scan that they found out that I had three fractures to L1, L2 and L3 transverse processes – the bones off the spine that the muscles attach to.

“With that I was very lucky to be at this club because of the medical support I got – not just the hospital visits, the scans, but also the physio and the rehab afterwards and that made a massive difference.”


Harris has been playing from a young age after starting off playing alongside the boys at at Thatto Heath and Portico, where her shirt is up on the clubhouse wall.

“When I couldn't play with the boys anymore my dad actually formed a team in St Helens called St Helens Scorpions and I played with them before drifting off to football for a few years.”

That was before she got a message from prop Chantelle Crowl explaining that Saints were forming a team and were having trials building up for 2017.

“I think it took us a few years to get gelled together as a team, but I think once we hit it off in 2021 to win the treble from there there's been no looking back.

“In 2021 when we did do the treble, we won every single game of the league and that gave Leeds and York, a bit of a kick up the backside to kind of get up to our standard.

“And I think from there it's been a really competitive between us three.”

Another thing has changed massively – player support and recognition something Harris describes as “absolutely surreal”.

“It's crazy, even when I'm walking through town and I've not even got my Saints gear on you can see the little girls pointing and their mum's coming over and wanting pictures.

“My family joke, saying you’re like a local celebrity but I'm more happy about it because they can see what they can achieve and what they can be.

“If girls want to be a women's rugby league player, if they want to be a women's football player they've got the people there inspiring them now.

“And I think that's the main thing - it's not an individual thing where it makes you feel good, it makes you feel good in a different way because you know you're inspiring them and showing them what they can do and what they can believe and what they can achieve,” she said.