On Tuesday 23rd April, the Parliamentary Rugby League Group welcomed players and staff from Surrey-based Howard of Effingham School to Westminster to hear about their incredible journey to become the first southern-based school to win the National School Championships, doing so after less than a year playing the sport.
The year seven team beat off strong sides from rugby league heartlands to earn their place at Wembley Stadium ahead of last year’s Challenge Cup Final where they faced Castleford High School in Wakefield. After a close battle, the Surrey school came from behind to win 24 points to 22 and won their place in rugby league history.
The side were guided by their PE master Shane Birkett who presented the side’s journey to the Parliamentary Group. He said “playing at Wembley is a huge thrill for anybody but to come away with a victory after playing schools steeped in the game was fantastic. It is testament to the hard work the lads put in as well as the faith shown by the school and parents to try a new and challenging sport.”
Such is the importance of becoming the first southern school to win the tournament, the side were recognised in the Surrey Sport Awards as the Young Sports Team of the Year. Their local MP, Sir Paul Beresford joined the side in the Palace of Westminster. He said “rugby league is not a well-known sport in Surrey, but thanks to the London Broncos Foundation and clubs such as Elmbridge Eagles in nearby Esher, we are in a terrific position to see more children and adults playing a great team game and I hope to see more of the players from Howard of Effingham and schools throughout Surrey and the South East doing so well in rugby league in the future.”
The invitation to the school was extended by Rugby League Group Chairman, Leeds North West MP, Greg Mulholland who said: “I was at Wembley Stadium last August to see the Challenge Cup Final, but seeing the schoolkids play is always a highlight – particularly such a thrilling and close game. Becoming the first school champions from the south and doing so after such a short time deserves our recognition and I am delighted the players, staff and parents could join the Group and tell us about their incredible journey.
“We hear about the work that is being done to support clubs throughout the UK and it is wonderful to see the results. Well done to all involved, on the field, in the school and in London Broncos and London Rugby League. The Group looks forward to seeing more from teams in the south doing so well in our great game.”