Talking grass roots: Leaving a legacy

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that uncertain pathway is possibly nowhere taken more regularly than in sport.

Hell might, admittedly, be a shade too strong a word for the destination reached by folk who fail to follow up inspiring events, but the essential truth is that, far too often, real opportunities are missed through simple inertia or procrastination.

There are those, for example, who will insist that as a nation we have failed to build, so far at least, on the legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Then there will be others who will argue that cricket has possibly neglected the opportunities presented by the summer’s Ashes success, although it may be too early to come to a judgment on that one.

Rugby League appears to have learned lessons from any errors made by its counterparts in other sports.

The RFL has certainly hit the ground running in the way it’s making the most of the success of the 2013 World Cup – and, for that matter, of the Festival of World Cups that preceded it.

A series of initiatives have already been put in place, all aimed at making maximum use of a rare opportunity.

Not least among those is the `Welcoming Clubs Workshops’ drive, which I wrote about in this column a few weeks ago.

I was perhaps mildly critical, then, of the fact that the project had been limited to Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire, so I’m now delighted that the Workshops will take place in other parts of the country, including the Midlands, the North East and the South East.

That’s a fantastic development, and I hope that the initiative will be emulated in other areas.

What I was also pleased to learn, when I spoke to the RFL’s affable Director of Participation, David Gent, at Friday evening’s glittering Hatton’s Solicitors National Conference League Dinner, was that the project is by nature of a prequel, rather than a sequel.

Plans had been put in place for the Workshops, and other initiatives such as Touch Rugby events, prior to the World Cup which, knowing David Gent and one or two of his colleagues, comes as no surprise.

“The RFL has certainly hit the ground running in the way it’s making the most of the success of the 2013 World Cup – and, for that matter, of the Festival of World Cups that preceded it.”

The signs, strongly and happily, are that the legacy of the 2013 World Cup will, assuredly, not be wasted. And, for that, the Rugby Football League deserves credit. Here is a real opportunity to spread the gospel, and that opportunity is not being wasted.

Also deserving of credit is the committee of the National Conference League who, yet again, ensured that the annual Dinner and Presentation Night was a memorable event for all the right reasons.

One moment that will linger long in my mind was the presentation of the Fair Play Award, which reminded me of a special award made to Cowling Harlequins at the Pennine League’s bash at the end of the 2011-12 season.

Cowling, who had taken a few hammerings during that campaign, were recognised for bravely seeing the season through, and the ovation they received from the floor was, I thought, moving.

It was similar when Peterlee Pumas received their Fair Play Award on Friday. The Pumas have, despite some heavy defeats – particularly in the early stages of their first season in the NCL – made a big impression, not least for fielding 17 players in each and every game.

Most delegates will themselves at some time have been through similar periods, as was indicated by the warmth of the reception accorded to the Pumas’ impressive mainstay Rob Laverick.

I reckon that Peterlee will, in the fullness of time, become a real power, and deservedly so.

The NCL Dinner, of course, is about recognising achievements, which are mainly measured in sport through trophies won. While the applause for West Hull’s championship win may have been a touch on the muted side it was certainly respectful, possibly to the relief of one or two folk, while the new trophy of Best Media Award, to recognise web-sites and other technological advances, was won by that great club Leigh Miners Rangers.

I had the privilege of travelling over to Ainley Top in a mini-bus shared by old rivals Castleford Panthers and Lock Lane, and the atmosphere there and back summed up what grassroots Rugby League is all about, rounding off another superb night.

Meanwhile, the BARLA County Championships at Open Age and under 19s came to a climax yesterday at Stanningley, Leeds.

Yorkshire beat Lancashire in each game, thereby securing both titles and putting paid to the Red Rose County’s under-19s coach Colin Phillips’ hopes of winning the title a thirteenth time in 16 attempts.

While Phillips’ hopes were shattered, the Tykes’ Open Age scrum-half Danny Rowse is riding the crest of a wave in a spell that he is likely to remember for the rest of his life.

Phil Hodgson.
Phil Hodgson.

Rowse, who was recognised as the NCL’s Player of the Year in the aforementioned bash, capped a great weekend by landing the late penalty that won the game, and the title. The scrum-half is hoping to carve out a career in the professional game, and he certainly has the ability. It may never get better for him than this, however.

By Phil Hodgson