Entrance to Hunslet's Display
The heritage project is working in partnership with Rugby League Cares, the World Cup Projects group and Kirklees MBC to organise the Rugby League World Cup 2013 Celebration Day at The John Smith’s Stadium on Friday 1st November, the day before England play Ireland at the stadium.
‘Effectively, we are turning the England v Ireland match into a two-day event. The council is planning other activities to attract particularly the Irish supporters to Huddersfield for the week.’
The day will have three main strands. The first of these will be displays of heritage collections from numerous clubs, and a film room. A dozen clubs, including over half of Super League, have expressed their intention to display their histories. Entrance to the exhibitions will be free.
The second strand is a conference-type event, with speakers, panels and films, running from 11.30am to 4.30pm. Tickets for this event cost just £10, include a buffet lunch and afternoon refreshments and are limited to 420. They will go on sale shortly. Heritage project manager Brian Heywood said: "Many sporting conference-type events are very expensive and end up being for academics paid for by their employers. Our overriding principle has been to make this an event for the fans, where they can listen to and meet some of the greats of the game."
The third strand of the day, the Rugby League Cares Charity Dinner, kicks off at 6pm.
‘Supporters can choose to come to one, two or all three parts of the day,’ added Heywood. ‘It is half term, so with the added attractions of the nearby cinema, swimming pool, The Zone and the Giants’ Community team running children’s rugby league activities, the Celebration Day can be part of a real family day out.’
Audience listening intensely
What an outstanding success this event proved to be.
Members of the Giants Heritage Project were ably led by Brian Heywood and David Thorpe in producing a day to remember at the John Smith's Stadium.
Prior to the conference part of the day, over a dozen Rugby League clubs brought along various heritage items. Did you know that during the 2nd World War, winners' medals were not awarded? Instead players received boxes of cutlery! Featherstone had one on show to prove the fact!
Everyone who helped make this part of the occasion deserves the utmost credit, but a particular mention must go to Pat Benatmane. Single-handedly she brought a stunning display from one of the game's oldest clubs which, a few years ago, almost died. One of the early greats, Hunslet are now steadily building for the future. And with people like Pat supporting them, who says that they will not succeed?
In the conference room, David Hinchliffe was the Master Of Ceremonies. David, formerly MP for Wakefield, formed the Parliamentary All-Party Rugby League Support Group.
After the official opening by David Oxley CBE, the panel of Robbie Hunter-Paul, John Kear, and Bev Risman OBE, under the guidance of Phil Caplan [managing editor of Forty-20 magazine] gave their opinions of Rugby League and the World Cup.
A lunch break followed, before Rugby League historian Tony Collins prodded David Jeanes, Harry Jepson, and Steve Nash for their memories about the 1972 World Cup. The session began with a 20-minute film of the final in which David and Steve played, the last time Great Britain won the trophy.
The final panel consisted of John Kear, Gary Hetherington, Julia Lee, Garry Schofield, and Chris Thorman, chaired by Dave Woods and whose subject was 2013 World Cups - Julia was managing director for last summer's Festival of World Cups - and how they would take Rugby League forward. John Kear suggested a 4-year cycle of:
1. World Cup
2. Top 3 or 4 teams from UK play same from NRL in World Club Championship
3. GB tour southern hemisphere
4. A European Nations tournament involving most or all of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, and Italy.
The stirring closing address was by Tony Collins emphasised the resilience and strengths of rugby league, before David Hinchliffe brought a memorable day to an end.
The day was marketed and priced from the start as an event for the fans. This was only made possible because all the speakers gave generously of their time free of charge. Their reward was an audience of over 200 attendees. Will this enormously successful event be repeated? Who knows? Within the room there was certainly a demand for it to be.