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John Drake

Schools Invited to Play in Cheltenham Rugby Festival

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Schools Invited to Play in Cheltenham Rugby Festival

Now in its sixth year, the popular Cheltenham Rugby Festival for schools will take place on Thursday May 9, 9am to 3pm at the University of Gloucestershire.

The event will be held at the University’s Sports Ground at the Folley in Swindon Road, Cheltenham, and the Festival highlights 9 a side Rugby League.

The Festival was introduced to the local sporting scene in 2008 as this was the centenary year commemorating the Great Match of February 15, 1908, when New Zealand All Golds defeated Great Britain 8 – 5 at the former Athletic Ground in Cheltenham to win rugby league’s first ever deciding international.

Newly appointed event manager Victoria McCreevey: “Rugby league is a fantastic sport made for children of all ages, both boys & girls. It is fun, fast and easy to follow at all ages and abilities so everyone is able to be involved within the game. The aim for May 9th Cheltenham Rugby Festival is to have all secondary schools represented within Gloucestershire and for the first time we are aiming to have more girls involved now to include school years 7,8,9 and 10. I am very excited and fortunate to be involved in such a great sporting event within Gloucestershire and with such a fantastic support from the University of Gloucestershire All Golds.”

The names of the trophies and awards highlight the key elements of the historic match thus the boys’ teams compete for the 1908 Cup and the player of the tournament in each age group – years 7, 8, 9 and 10 receives the Arthur Smith Award.” Mad “Arthur as he was affectionately known was a great Forest of Dean Rugby Union player who then joined Oldham rugby league club and was selected to play for Great Britain in the Great Match of 1908.

The Golden Fern Cup is awarded to the winning girls’ schools in the same age groups ie 7, 8, 9 and 10. The Golden Fern symbol has been adopted by the successful University of Gloucestershire’s rugby league team, the All Golds. The player of the competition in each of the girls age groups receives the Empress Award. This is named after the ship that brought the New Zealand All Golds to England from France.

Furthermore the William Holder Award will be presented this year for the first time to the outstanding teacher. Holder played for Gloucester Rugby Union and then joined Hull and he too played for Great Britain in the 1908 match. According to the Echo at the time he was “the best on the day for the Northern Union”. Great Britain was known by this name at that time.

One of Gloucester rugby’s great heroes was the” Volcano” Lesley Vainikolo. Accordingly there is a very popular award in his name and is presented to the school that displays the best sportsmanship, enthusiasm and conduct. Lesley was a great Kiwi Rugby League international and star at Bradford Bulls before joining Gloucester Rugby Union and thus took the reverse route to Smith and Holder above.

The 2012 roll of honour was as follows:

1908 cup winners:

Year 7 – Churchdown

Year 8 – Chosen Hill

Year 9 – St Peter’s

Year 10 – Chosen Hill

Arthur Smith award winners (player of the tournament):

Year 7 – James Davies – St Peter’s

Year 8 – Chris Cooke – Chosen Hill

Year 9 – Zeb Vain – St Peter’s

Year 10- Morgan Botterill – Chosen Hill

Golden Fern cup winners:

Year 7 – Churchdown

Year 9 – Ribston Hall

Empress award winners (player of the tournament):

Year 7 – Britney Webb - Churchdown

Year 9 – Harrie Davis – Ribston Hall

Lesley Vainikolo award

St Peter’s RC High School

Festival Founder Lionel Hurst is naturally delighted with the way the Festival is developing in to a highlight in the Schools’ Calendar: “The aim is and always has been simple and clear – that the Cheltenham Festival will become one of the great schools’ sports events in the nation. We continue to be on course.”

Another significant aspect of the Festival is the continuing support as principal guests of many well known local figures including the town’s Member of Parliament Martin Horwood, the Mayor, the Echo Editor Kevan Blackadder and others.

All enquires with regard to participation, rules and coaching should be addressed to the All Golds Schools’ Liaison Officer Josh Pettifer on or 07595 596725 or contact the Event Manager Victoria McCreevey on or 07766 977589

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