Northumberland’s newest Rugby League club, Alnwick Bears, has enjoyed a successful first season writes Jeff Ball.
Launching in February, even the Beast from the East could not dampen the enthusiasm, with snow games replacing normal training.
When the thaw came, the club’s U8s and U10s exploded into action, with almost 40 children signing up alongside the club’s Bear Cubs for 2-6 year olds.
As the players learnt the ropes, their first experience of live Rugby League was spectacular. With the Dacia Magic Weekend returning to Tyneside once again, the Bears had the honour of walking out of the tunnel with Salford Red Devils and eventual Challenge Cup winners Catalan Dragons before enjoying the day’s matches.
Their first match action took place in June, travelling to sister club Cramlington Rockets for a festival that will live long in the memory for those involved.
Norman Murray had the honour of scoring the first ever Alnwick Bears try, dotting down for the U8s, with Kiemi Stewart the first to cross the line for the U10s in the later game.
With more matches and new faces seeing the club continue to grow, the efforts of the club’s staff were starting to catch the eye elsewhere. Team Manager Tracy Bowie was nominated for North East Primary Rules Volunteer of the Year and coach Rob Phillips was shortlisted for Volunteer of the Year and Spirit of the Community.
Head Community Coach Danny Gilroy was nominated for Coach of the Year at the Alnwick & District Sport Awards and the whole team was nominated for the Chronicle Champions Unsung Sporting Hero award.
After a solid year of progress with numbers and skill levels ever rising, the Bears finished the year with a taste of international rugby. With Scotland taking on Wales at Galashiels in the European Championship, the Bears took a bus up to the borders and walked out with the home side, enjoying the experience of the anthems before watching the match.
With only a visit from Santa delaying the club’s hibernation for Christmas, plans are already underway to make 2019 an even bigger and better year.