IT was a pleasure to be at Old Trafford for the presentation of the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair World Cup trophies, and for details of the draws, which are now to be held in the New Year.
The RLWC2021 chief executive Jon Dutton and his hardworking team continue to do a cracking job in organising and promoting the competitions and I came away convinced, yet again, that the forthcoming tournaments are already streets ahead of previous competitions, certainly in terms of legacy.
Plenty of cash has already been pumped into grass roots Rugby League and there’s much more to follow, with just £1m of the £10m designated for what you might call ‘capital’ projects allocated so far.
There’s exactly two years to go to the launch of the World Cup, and many more amateur clubs and organisations have bids in the pipeline as the grass roots looks set to prosper further – even if there’s a possible caveat in that the funding, which was agreed by David Cameron’s Conservative government, is under potential threat under any new administration after the forthcoming general election.
You have to doubt, though, that any of the hopefuls aiming for 10 Downing Street would renege on a pledge already made. Surely? After all, if you can’t trust politicians who can you trust? People will be questioning the integrity of referees next…
Joking aside, outstanding funding is to my mind safe, as is the future of the World Cups, but maybe I’ve been comforted by the fact that the trophies have been made by Fattorini and Sons, who of course produced the original Challenge Cup and the FA Cup.
It’s a nice touch that Rugby League has commissioned a company, formed in Bradford, which has such time-honoured links to the sport, Tony Fattorini having represented inaugural champions Manningham – who later became Bradford City FC – at the famous meeting of clubs at the George Hotel, Huddersfield which led to the formation of the Northern Union in 1895.
What also impressed me was the news that, with player welfare in mind, dates in the Women’s competition are being adjusted, I think to give players proper rest between games.
And Dutton and his colleagues are keen to learn from, and link with, other sports, such as netball, which certainly augers well – no one can prosper by operating in isolation, after all – and it seems that much has also been learned by attending the recent rugby union World Cup in Japan.
Long-term links will also be forged with volunteers at the 2021 World Cup, and there was welcome mention of USA’s debut in the Wheelchair competition while the estimable Lois Forsell is to visit Brazil, who are entering the Women’s event, to impart some of her knowledge and expertise.
The legacy of the lasses who won the Ashes Down Under in 1996, and who reached the World Cup final in 2000 (losing to New Zealand Ferns in a thrilling game at Wilderspool, Warrington) was also utilised through a riveting interview, as part of the filmed presentation, with Brenda Dobek, Lisa Mackintosh and Jackie Sheldon, three greats whose expertise the RLCW2021 organisers clearly value.
And Dutton’s team is targeting access to free coaching qualifications as a further hugely important legacy of the next World Cup.
Wheelchair players and coaches will be utilised, during their respective competitions, to further develop Rugby League in this country and beyond, while plans are in hand to send Wheelchair coaches to Norway in an imaginative piece of expansion.
No wonder I wandered out of Old Trafford feeling happy!
© League Express (Mon 2nd Dec 2019)