Jessica’s Challenge Cup Final joy

Jessica Marsh with the Challenge Cup Final match officials
Jessica Marsh with the Challenge Cup Final match officials

The Challenge Cup was a tough day for Wigan Warriors supporters, but it was a once in a lifetime experience for super fan Jessica Marsh

Nine-year-old Jessica, from Ribbleton, won the Rugby Football League’s ‘fifth official’ competition for the cup final, giving one lucky fan a match day experience they would never forget.

Her dad Jonathan Lumb, who takes Jessica to games at the DW Stadium on a regular basis, saw the competition on social media and entered Jessica’s name, who wanted to use the experience to better her knowledge of rugby league and its rules.

After being notified that she had won the competition by Super League referee Chris Campbell - who surprised her and her dad at their home with tickets - Jessica and her party were presented with a Wembley hospitality suite on cup final day.

Jessica, who attends Samlesbury Church of England School, said: “I feel so lucky to have been picked, it was a dream come true. Thank you to everyone at the RFL and sponsors Specsavers for my amazing day.

“I have the best dad for helping me enter the competition.”

Jessica meeting Hull and Wigan captains Gareth Ellis and Sean O'Loughlin

Jessica meeting Hull and Wigan captains Gareth Ellis and Sean O'Loughlin

Jessica was given a private guided tour of Wembley Stadium and presented with an authentic referees match day kit, bag, and even red and yellow cards.

35-year-old Jonathan said: “Jessica absolutely loved it. I was in tears at how proud I was of her; the whole experience was just amazing.

“It was unreal to see so many people at Wembley Stadium watching and chanting whilst she was on the pitch.”

The experience didn’t end there for Jessica; half-time saw her take part in a Blue Peter challenge alongside the likes of rugby league legend Kevin Sinfield.

Jessica said: “I love rugby and go to watch Wigan play as much as I can. Even we didn’t win I am still proud of the team for getting as far as they did.

“I liked that my grandma Shirley and great grandma Joyce got to see me on television.”

As well as receiving a signed match programme by referee Phil Bentham, touch judges Chris Kendall and Jack Smith and video referee, James Child, dad Jonathan got Jessica a match ball signed by an array of Wigan legends including coach Shaun Wane and players Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Tomkins, Tony Clubb, Oliver Gildart, and Liam Marshall.

Partnerships Manager for the RFL, Bobby Bahadori, said: “We hope Jessica had a fantastic experience and enjoyed her day.”

The 2017 Challenge Cup Final saw Hull FC beat Wigan Warriors 18-14 to secure back-to-back titles for the Yorkshire club. A last second Joe Burgess try could have won it for Wigan but was ruled out for a forward pass.