Talking Grassroots with Phil Hodgson of League Express
The announcement by the RLWC2021 team of twelve further beneficiaries of the CreatedBy scheme couldn’t have been more timely, coming as did a matter of days after the announcement that the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair World Cups have been postponed until 2022.
I know I keep banging on about this, but I make no apologies for that. The World Cup has already been a huge success, regardless of a ball not having been kicked or passed.
Confirmation regarding the deserving dozen’s delight was made alongside the announcement that the deadline for bids under the CreatedBy scheme expired on 12 August. But no one can really grouse about that, as my understanding is that any residual funds available can be applied for next year.
There’ll be more news on that front down the line from the proactive World Cup team, I’m sure.
Meanwhile I couldn’t help but notice that, yet again, there’s a healthy geographical spread to the most recent awards, which total a hundred grand, (and that’s only part of the story as, in many cases, grassroots clubs, schools and colleges have been backed by similar funding locally, whether by councils, sponsors or other organisations).
Two, in particular, caught my eye. St Johns School, of Durham, has a long history of involvement in Rugby League, mainly I believe in Champion Schools competitions, and that enjoyment, which has been in abeyance for a while, will be resurrected following funding of kit and equipment; it will be good to monitor their progress.
The other relates to Grange Community Junior School, who were described in the press release as being at Rushmoor, North Farnborough.
I had to Google exactly where that is, and it turns out to be in a county – Hampshire – which, for family reasons, I frequently visit these days.
Grange are to use their grant to launch a tag-rugby club, and I hope that this corner of north-east Hampshire will become something of a Rugby League hotbed.
Those two awards are on top of the usual names in our sport’s traditional heartlands, as the grassroots game continues to gain valuable support from the World Cup.
That backing can only boost amateur Rugby League as we all continue (hopefully) to emerge from the coronavirus lockdowns.
Many clubs are intrinsically strong, mainly because of the involvement of long-serving and hardworking volunteers.
Such folk spring to mind, occasionally, when results come my way over the weekend. For example, when I learned early on Saturday morning that Wigan St Judes had registered their first win of the season the previous evening with their 26-18 victory at neighbours Ince Rose Bridge, I couldn’t help being delighted (with due deference to the Bridge) for Jude’s secretary Joe Fitzsimmons, who is one of those blokes who, having spent decades in the role, seems to quite happily take the rough with the smooth.
Joe, for all I know, may have been inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s lines “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same,” as might many others.
Kenny Sykes, who has been Heworth’s secretary for more years than he may care to remember, is another. The York outfit, like Wigan St Judes, have known both heady successes and tough times, but Sykes and committed colleagues such as David Ward and Barrow Jackson simply keep going in the face of adversity, as do so many folk at other clubs.
As the years pass, happy days can again arrive, which is the case for Heworth this season. They – and their friends and neighbours York Acorn – were placed in what looked like a daunting league as the National Conference League took the prudent (and, in truth, unavoidable) option of going regionalised.
Acorn and Heworth were grouped with the Hull sides – Beverley, Hull Dockers, Myton Warriors, Skirlaugh and West Hull – and it looked, to me anyway, as though they had been presented with a tough gig.
But as the NCL campaign heads towards its close, the pair are heading the table. With due apologies to the Hull outfits (as, earlier in this offering, with Ince Rose Bridge) it’s good to see, from the perspective of York folk anyway.
Other clubs to be in decent fettle these days after a few years of struggle include Eastmoor Dragons and Normanton Knights and I‘m sure that other clubs that might be towing a little lately will take solace from the experiences of Heworth and Wigan St Judes.
One, for example, could be Hunslet Warriors, who lost 66-12 to local rivals Hunslet Club Parkside on Friday evening. It doesn’t seem to be too long ago that I was in the Warriors clubhouse presenting their then-captain Caldon Bravo with the Ravensport Tough Tackle Trophy, as the best defensive side in the Open Age amateur game.
It was the second time Hunslet Warriors had lifted it, having been the inaugural winners in, I think, 1998-99.
I made the point, in my presentation, that while the Tough Tackle Trophy wasn’t the most important trophy the side had won that season, in a way it was exactly that. The fact that they’d consistently limited the number of points conceded had, I suggested, gone quite a way to them having a bulging trophy cabinet.
I’ve no doubt that Hunslet Warriors will, in time and in common with many other teams, again experience the sunlit lands, hopefully sooner rather than later. It may well be helpful for all such sides for the NCL to revert to divisions, which is certainly the Conference management’s plan for 2022. More details will emerge on that, I imagine, over the coming weeks.
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.