Grassroots Rugby League news round-up

England Wheelchair head coach Tom Coyd has confirmed his 10-player squad, captained by Tom Halliwell, for the home match with France on Sunday (19 June), which is taking place as part of both sides’ preparations for the autumn’s World Cup.

He said: “This was a tough selection, after our final training camp at UCLAN in Preston on Challenge Cup Final weekend, but that is the way we’d want it in World Cup year.

“Everyone in the Performance Squad of 19 has been working so hard all year following the postponement of the World Cup by twelve months, and my message to the players omitted is that places are still up for grabs.

“To face France in a mid-season international is perfect preparation for the World Cup. It’s exciting that we’ve picked a young squad – and we have more strength in depth than ever thanks to the increased intensity of our domestic competitions.”

One player – Josh Butler of Leeds Rhinos – will be on debut when the teams square up at the Manchester Basketball Centre while Wigan Warriors’ Martin Norris, a member of the inaugural Great Britain side in 2006 (and the captain from 2008 to 2014) is in the squad after having returned to the international arena, after a seven-year hiatus, for last autumn’s games with World Cup holders France.

England’s squad for the match, which will be screened live on Sky Sports from 2.30pm, is Tom Halliwell, Josh Butler, Nathan Collins (all Leeds Rhinos), Seb Bechara (Catalans Dragons), Joe Coyd, Lewis King (both London Roosters), Rob Hawkins (Halifax Panthers), Martin Norris, Adam Rigby, Declan Roberts (all Wigan Warriors).


The keenly anticipated ‘Life with the Lionesses’ heritage project will launch at the weekend with a two-day exhibition on Saturday 18 June and Sunday 19 June.

The initiative, which will raise awareness of the legendary figures who have pioneered Women’s International Rugby League, will kickstart at the York Festival of Ideas, at York Sport Village (part of the University of York Campus) from 10am-5pm each day, when former Great Britain stars Lisa McIntosh and Julie Cronin will be present.

‘Tosh’ and Cronin helped make history back in 1996 when they and the rest of the Lionesses squad, all of whom had self-funded the trip, returned from the inaugural tour of Australia with the Ashes packed away in the luggage hold.

McIntosh, who was joint captain with Brenda Dobek, played for Heath as a 19-year-old before moving on to Illingworth and, subsequently, Dudley Hill Thunderbirds.

Cronin also started playing Rugby League in her late teens, with local outfit York Acorn.

McIntosh recalls: “Some players got individual sponsors, while I worked at the Leisure Centre and Calderdale Council were brilliant – they sponsored me every time. We all helped each other to raise the money we needed by doing things like bucket collections at Rugby League grounds.

“We felt embarrassed at first but we became professionals. People used to give us lots of money – it was brilliant. We would have a bit of a laugh and a joke. People would recognise us. Some people said ‘you shouldn’t have to do this.’ Even the professional male players supported us.

“We ourselves became more professional as the tour beckoned, with proper fitness testing. While we were serious about our training we also had a great time and that built the team spirit for future tours as well.

“We beat Australia in the First Test and the crowd was really hard on us. We had practiced singing the national anthem before the game but we didn’t realise that there was a second verse and when the music kept playing we all just stood there looking at each other.”

Cronin remembers: “I was in my twenties and a single mum by the time I was selected to play for Great Britain and I spent the 18 months before the tour training, fundraising, juggling childcare and working of course. It was really tough. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and friends. It was an incredible experience and we were the last Rugby League team to beat the Aussies on their home turf.

“Beating Australia was remarkable. But coming home you wouldn’t have known we’d won the series – it was as if we had just been on holiday. Nobody was waiting for us, no press. We just got off the plane and all went home.”

Great Britain toured New Zealand two years later, losing the series, following which Head Coach Jackie Sheldon brought in conditioners. “We gradually became a more professional outfit – stronger, leaner, fitter – that’s what we needed to compete,” said Tosh, who added: “I would encourage anyone to have a go at playing Rugby League. You make long-lasting memories and friendships and it makes you stronger both physically and mentally. I’d like to see it become as popular as women’s football – not just a novelty.”

The recollections of Lisa McIntosh and Julie Cronin, and many others, will be used as part of the Life with the Lionesses exhibition, which will tour to ten venues across the north of England and which will be shared on social media, as part of the Women in Rugby League archive at Heritage Quays at the University of Huddersfield, and on a dedicated website.

The twelve-month project will work alongside Rugby League Cares, the Rugby Football League, the Rugby League World Cup 2021 and Heritage Quay at the University of Huddersfield to build a permanent public archive, and activities will focus around Castleford, Featherstone, Huddersfield, Hull, Leeds, St Helens, Wakefield, Warrington, Wigan and York. The initiative, which is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, is the brainchild of Julia Lee, of Huddersfield, who became one of the first women to referee men’s Rugby League in the 1980s.

She said: “We are delighted to have been offered a platform at the prestigious York Festival of Ideas. Women had to work so hard to get recognition for their achievements in Rugby League and we are keen to tell their stories to a wider public.”


They breed ‘em as givers at Oulton!

Two of the south Leeds outfits stalwarts – James Elston and Sasch Brook – are setting about raising funds for important causes in the spirit that has long typified Raiders’ players and coaches.

James, who is a junior coach at Oulton, and who is a former CEO of Wakefield Trinity, is, with around 20 other riders including Paul Wood, currently pedalling his way from Niagara Falls to New York on the Empire State 500 epic cycling adventure, which follows the Erie Canal, Iroquois River and Apalachian trail through the state of New York. Donations are being passed to the charity Rugby League Cares, which supports injured players and their families.

Sasch, meanwhile, will spend Saturday 2 July running the Endure 24 Hour Ultra Marathon at Bramham Park, Wetherby, aiming to raise £5,000 for the City of Hull & District Rugby League. A key member of the Oulton side that lifted the National Conference League title in 2006 (totalling 448 appearances for the Raiders) he is the Hull FC Academy Manager and has worked for the club in a range of roles since 1999.

Noted for his work on behalf of charities, including organising the WillPower Rugby League Festival five years ago in support of his young nephew, when £11,000 was raised for Candlelighters (not to mention running two 24 Hour Ultra Marathons last year) he said: “I have enjoyed the challenge of long distance ultra-trail running over the past few years and it adds real purpose to my life, not just in my personal life with my own family but also in the workplace with my full-time career working in professional Rugby League.

“The sport has given me everything in my adult life through different scenarios, something which I’m forever grateful for. I have had a passion for youth Rugby League for decades now and to raise funds for the City of Hull & District Rugby League is a key focus of mine.”

Donations can be made to each cause through the Just Giving facility, at and

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