Around half of the 60 clubs in membership of the North West Youth Leagues attended a meeting last Wednesday at Golborne Parkside called by management to “elicit views, discuss possible alternatives and agree how we wish to proceed” regarding the Rugby Football League’s player membership scheme, which is due to become mandatory next year under the `ourleague’ banner.
Chair Darren Hayes told League Express: “There was a lot of resistance towards the costs, with clubs explaining that they live in deprived areas and that parents would not be able to afford to pay.
“It was said, in response, that the costs would have to come in, which led to strong views from clubs that they were funding a shortfall at the RFL, with one club indicating that poor commercial work by the RFL is now causing a financial issue that needs to be sorted.”
He continued: “The RFL’s Robert Hicks stressed that safeguarding was a big part of this and explained the work that was being carried out by he and colleagues to ensure child safety; that was met with a good response.
“No other part (of the RFL’s presentation) got a good response though. The start of the night was tense and at times very vocal. There were discussions around how we can be paid as it was felt families could not afford to pay this in one go, or at all.
“The RFL went away with a list of questions that they will answer by email, however it does not change the fact that these costs will come in next year. It was pointed out that this was the wrong time to be trying to do this – on the back of a pandemic, when families are struggling to eat let alone pay subs, and there was a lot of resentment in the room that the membership scheme is coming in whether people like it or not.”
Hayes concluded: “Poor communication from the RFL was highlighted by all clubs in the room who had not been involved. A show of hands indicated that only two clubs present had actually been spoken to, or had been part of the initial meetings to discuss `ourleague’.”
THE Macmillan Cancer Support charity has received £1650, raised in memory of former Wigan St Judes treasurer Joan Fitzsimmons, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 76.
Joan’s husband Joe is Judes’ long-serving secretary and the hardworking Fitzsimmons partnership served the Parson’s Meadow outfit with great distinction from the club’s launch forty years ago.
Club official Paul McCormick said: “Joan and Joe’s lifelong dedication to each other could only be matched by the time and hard work they’ve given to the Worsley Mesnes based rugby club.
“From the very beginning in 1981 they were central in helping form this community. For twenty years Joan acted as the club treasurer while Joe took on the role of secretary, a role he still holds today.
“As the club grew, we have all seen the difference they’ve made to people’s lives, and the international rugby stars they’ve proudly nurtured.”
He continued: “Earlier this year, even though Joan hadn’t been feeling at her best, they were planning to celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary on Saturday 25 September with friends and family. But, after Joan began to struggle with weight loss and pain, she made an appointment to see her GP. Shortly afterwards they received the devastating news that she had lung cancer. It was at a stage where little could be done other than to make her as comfortable as possible.
“It’s been the darkest of times coming to terms with everything that’s happened but Joe, supported by good friend Mick O’Brien, decided that they couldn’t let their Golden Wedding Anniversary pass by without marking the occasion.”
Paul explained: “Joe took the decision to use the date and room they’d booked at the ground for their anniversary, and use it for a party and a fundraiser in Joan’s memory. He wanted to ensure that others going through a cancer diagnosis, no matter how early or late on, had somewhere to turn to for help and guidance.
“John Martin, the former Riverside Compere, provided the entertainment and the room was filled with laughter and kindness while raising £1650 for Macmillan Cancer Support. Joe wants everyone to know how grateful he is.”
UNDERBANK RANGERS are withdrawing from the National Conference League.
The Huddersfield outfit, which reached the play-offs stage in last season’s competition, were due to have featured in the Premier Division in 2022, but are to switch to the Yorkshire Men’s League following the retirement of long-serving coach Richard Knight and the loss of several players.
Secretary Rebecca Knight said, in a message to the club’s players and supporters: “With Knighty taking some time out from the game and only twelve of the current NCL team able to commit to next season we have had to take the difficult decision to reset.
“Competing in the NCL while trying to update very tired facilities is financially unviable, which means a fresh start, with a Yorkshire Men’s League team and a second team, underpinned by kids’ teams which, one day, will feed into the men’s teams.”
She continued: “This means a development in the facilities (which haven’t changed in ten years) and the development of girls and women’s rugby. Our five-year plan as a new committee is to raise enough money through fundraising and grants to build a new clubhouse and to have a ‘flattish’ pitch!
“We are growing together with our community for a bigger and better future for Underbank and, in the future, we aim to take our new facilities, pitch and team back to the NCL.”
She concluded: “If there are any local businesses who would like to support us with our fresh start please get in touch for sponsorship. And anybody (adults or children) who would like to get involved in the club in the background (kit, stats, taking money on game day, advertising etc) should also get in touch please.”
Richard Knight has stepped down after thirteen years and over 300 games of superb service. He cites last year’s Betfred Challenge Cup victory at West Wales as high among his best memories, adding: “Winning the club’s first-ever Grand Final in 2011, beating Kippax at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington, in the Rugby League Conference decider was a big achievement for the club and accounting for West Wales away in 2020 – beating them easily on their own ground in the midst of Storm Katrina – is right up there
“That year we beat Lock Lane, Distington and of course West Wales in the Challenge Cup before losing to Bradford in a tie that was aired on the BBC. That run was a special memory.”
He continued: “I would like to thank Michael Nasey and Neil Farrell for giving me the opportunity back in 2008 to start a journey with this great club that saw us reach our goal of playing in the top competition possible and by beating a professional side in the Challenge Cup.
“I have so many more to thank though, assistant coaches and players alike. Sponsors, support staff and my family, who have brought my kids along since they were babies. The memories will stay with me forever and I can truly say I have made some best friends for life.”
THE State of Mind charity, which is offering amateur and professional Rugby League clubs mental fitness and resilience sessions, has been focussing on the St Helens area and turning their attentions to Cumbria, before moving on elsewhere.
The charity was established in 2011 following the tragic death of the previous year of former Wigan Warriors and Great Britain star Terry Newton, and an RFL official said: “We all have mental fitness and we all experience ups and downs, just as we do with physical health.
“Maintaining a healthy mind is important in maintaining healthy relationships and in coping with everyday stressors of life and making good choices. There is a strong relationship between levels of wellbeing, motivation and performance and all clubs have a responsibility to support the health and wellbeing of their players and members as part of their health and safety duties.
“Taking a positive and proactive approach to mental fitness can help to grow players/members wellbeing and resilience and support them in fulfilling their potential. It can help build a culture that champions mental fitness, provides a greater understanding in how to help those who need more support. It will also enhance the reputation of the club. A club that focuses on mental fitness and encourages healthy behaviors is more likely to attract the best talent, to have players and members feeling valued, to be supported by parents and to be successful in the long term.”
Further information can be obtained by emailing Ste Cash at Ste.firstname.lastname@example.org
THE next meeting of the Castleford & Featherstone District League will take place next Monday (8 November).
The agenda will include the draw and dates for the David Poulter Open Cup, and the possibility of reviving the league’s representative side.
All clubs are asked to attend; delegates should convene at Glasshoughton WMC for a prompt 7.30pm start.
AS standards of behaviour on the touchline continue to cause concern, the Rugby Football League has reminded clubs that a meeting is to take place next week aimed at eradicating the problem.
The gathering will be hosted by Rochdale Mayfield on Saturday 6 November, with Referees’ Societies, leagues, clubs and coaches all invited for a three-hour session starting at 10.00am.
An RFL spokesman stated: “Examples of poor behaviour, including match official abuse, is prevalent not only among players but also coaches, Game Day Managers and spectators including parents, and are a reason for match official leaving the game.
“The issue has intensified following the return to play following the Covid enforced lockdowns. Whilst such behaviours only involve a minority there is a clear need for immediate action and culture change to ensure everyone who participates in Rugby League can do so in a safe welcoming environment.”
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