Lizzie Jones and Mike Nicholas have both been awarded the MBE in the Queen’s 2020 New Year honours.
Lizzie has been recognised for services to Rugby League and to charity, after founding and driving the Defibrillator Fund following the loss of her husband, Danny, who died from an undiagnosed heart defect while playing for Keighley Cougars against London Skolars in May 2015.
His sudden death prompted Lizzie to launch a campaign in association with the RL Benevolent Fund to raise funds to help amateur Rugby League clubs purchase cardiac defibrillators.
Over the last four years, the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund has raised almost £200,000 and purchased potentially life-saving equipment that is safeguarding the health of more than 40,000 Rugby League players and officials, as well as countless fans.
Mike is the President of Wales Rugby League and his award is for his services to Rugby League.
Reacting to the news, Lizzie said she feels “absolutely overwhelmed and privileged to accept the MBE on behalf of the whole Rugby League family for the way in which it has embraced our work with the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund”.
The fund has also helped pay for cardiac screening for junior and adult Rugby League players, and in recent months has been helping other sports, including cricket, generate the funds they need to install defibrillators at local clubs.
Nicholas, 73, born in Port Talbot in 1946, came north to play for Warrington in 1972 and has been actively involved behind the scenes for Rugby League in Wales since 1981 when, alongside another former international player David Watkins, he helped set up Cardiff City Blue Dragons.
He became team manager for Wales Students RL in 1989, before having that role for the full Wales men’s side between 1993 and 2000.
He founded South Wales RLFC in 1996 in the first season of summer Rugby League and became WRL president in 2003, helping to set up the Welsh domestic competition that still runs today, and assisted in the establishment of three of the clubs – Torfaen Tigers, Bridgend Blue Bulls and Aberavon Fighting Irish. He is still the honorary president of the Bridgend club. Over the last 16 years, he has been at many Welsh Grand Finals, presenting trophies and medals.
In 2005, he was a co-founder of Celtic Crusaders and helped bring in backers to the club in its early days and he also sat on the board of South Wales Scorpions in their early days.
Nicholas said: “This is a really proud day for myself, my family and for the game of Rugby League. My parents would have been so proud of this.
“I don’t do my work in Rugby League for recognition, but it’s nice to be rewarded in this way nonetheless. It’s a reassurance to know sometimes that people think that I’m doing the right thing.
“I’m president of Wales Rugby League, but even if didn’t have an official position, I’d still be promoting Rugby League because of the passion I have for it.