Trio of Rugby League winners at sports awards including Billy Boston and Sheffield Eagles

HEADINGLEY played host to the Sporting Heritage Awards last week – and Rugby League was suitably a big winner, claiming three awards.

The Rugby Codebreakers statue, unveiled last year in Cardiff Bay to commemorate Welsh players who left rugby union and moved north to play the 13-a-side game, won the Celebrating Black Sporting Heritage award.

Billy Boston, Clive Sullivan and Gus Risman are depicted in bronze on the waterfront of the Welsh capital, with Boston in attendance at the awards ceremony.

The leader of Cardiff Council, Huw Thomas, said: “The statue will act as a source of inspiration for generations to come and I’m delighted that its contribution to celebrating black sporting heritage has been recognised with this award.”

Julia Lee was a joint-winner of the Celebrating Women’s Sporting Heritage award for her ‘Life with the Lionesses’ project.

The work of Lee, herself a pioneer as a referee, documented the history of the first women’s international players.

It ensured former players were recognised with international caps, certificates and heritage numbers, and led to the establishment of the Women’s Rugby League Hall of Fame.

“I feel honoured and proud to receive this award,” said Lee, who is currently working on a follow-up project, ‘The Pioneering Years’, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of the founding of the first women’s Rugby League clubs.

“I’m really proud of what we all achieved by shining a light on these women who paved the way and left a real legacy for those who followed in their footsteps.

“This award is for the Lionesses who were determined to play in the face of opposition and hardship and whose pioneering achievements have had a massive effect on the lives of others and continue to do so today.”

Sheffield Eagles Foundation, alongside Literacy Kicks (the schools programme founded by former League Express reporter Gareth Walker), won the Celebrating Sporting Heritage in Schools award.

Their project saw over 650 primary school children in the city learn how to write a match report based on Sheffield’s famous Challenge Cup triumph in 1998, joined in class by Mark Aston and Keith Senior, who played in that victorious side.

Walker said: “Working with Richard (King, who manages the Sheffield Eagles Heritage Project) and Andrea Dobson at the Eagles Foundation to deliver this project in the city was a hugely positive experience and we are delighted to have been recognised in this way by Sporting Heritage.

“Each of the schools that took part bought fully into the concept of the children becoming sports journalists for an hour, reporting on what is an iconic sport event for the city of Sheffield.

“They produced some outstanding reports, and the presence of Mark and Cory Aston and Keith Senior in the classrooms undoubtedly added an extra dimension to the initiative. It was a privilege to be a part of.”

First published in League Express newspaper, Issue 3,430 (May 13, 2024)

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