Challenge Cup winner James Donaldson admitted lifting rugby league’s most prestigious trophy was simply ‘beyond his wildest dreams’ and dedicated his win to his family back in Cleator Moor.

Donaldson admitted being able to clinch the cup with Leeds Rhinos at Wembley was an amazing feeling and said his brother Craig, who was paralysed from the chest down back in 2009 after an accident on the family farm, was never far from his thoughts.

“I can do a lot of things that Craig can’t so to be able to go to the final and represent my family and my brother out on the field is awesome for me,” said a proud Donaldson.

“He was definitely over the moon for me, I had a few text messages and I Facetimed him with the cup in my hand.

“Everyone at home was over the moon. Obviously some of my family are doing it tough at the moment so for them to watch me and get some enjoyment out of this is absolutely amazing.

“They were all delighted to watch me lift the cup.”

And the 29-year-old has overcome his own problems in his career to reach this pinnacle, after coming back from three ACL operations and fighting back when he lost his job when Bradford Bulls went bust.

But he says all that adversity, including fighting back from a broken back earlier this season, has made him a better player and driven him to succeed.

He added: “I didn’t know what was going on at the time when I hurt my back. I just thought with my luck it could be anything.

“But my career has been based on adversity and overcoming problems. It just shows that hard work really does pay off and hopefully I will carry on proving people wrong.”

And that moment when the hooter sounded and he knew he was a Challenge Cup winner, after edging out Salford 17-16?

“It was an amazing feeling, just beyond my wildest dreams to win a Challenge Cup,” said the former Wath Brow amateur.

“It is what you dream of as a kid to play in a final and win. And I got the opportunity to lift the cup – just fantastic.

“You always want to be in the mix all the time so it was amazing to be on the field at the final hooter.”

It was a strange Wembley experience, with no fans in the stadium due to Covid-19 restrictions – and no big celebrations afterwards.

“It was a crazy atmosphere,” he added. “It is such a big stadium and you could hear the echo of everyone’s voices. It was strange without the fans but at least they could all watch from home.”

And now what’s next for Donaldson? Well he is certainly not about to rest as Leeds are back in training and setting their sights on the Super League crown.

“We have some tough games coming up but there are a few that we have set our sights on and if we pick up points we will be in a great place going into the play-offs.”