A group of players from Hull Kingston Rovers made a surprise visit to Hemel Hempstead recently to work Hemel Stags and visit a number of schools in the area.
The initiative was part of a character-building exercise for the players. The club had decided to split the squad into groups of five and send them off to different parts of the country for three days. When they assembled in Hull they had their phones and wallets taken from them, were given a set amount of money, a minibus, a driver (Willie Poching), a road map and a destination.
Willie, the Hull KR assistant coach, had played with Hemel Stags coach Troy Perkins over 20 years ago at St George, so he contacted Troy before Christmas to set things up.
He drove five of the first team squad to Hertfordshire, Maurice Blair, James Green, Kevin Larroyer, Matty Marsh and Iain Thornley. On the first day they trained with the Stags first team.
The skill level they brought to the session was outstanding, with Maurice Blair firing 20-metre passes out to the wings. It proved a real success, with the professionals offering tips and advice to over 40 Stags players.
Mike Stewart, Community Development Manager at Hemel Stags, then had to help them find accommodation for the night as they had no phones and therefore no means of researching hotels. “On their limited budget they still managed to buy a Domino’s pizza each for dinner followed by an all-you-can eat breakfast at Toby Carvery. They assured me that they didn't always eat like this.”
Mike had organised for them to visit two schools the following day. First up was George Street Primary, where they delivered an assembly to over 300 pupils. Each player spoke eloquently of their professional lifestyle, their background, future aims and sacrifices. The school was chosen as a reward for being the current Year 4 Sky Try Tag Rugby League champions of the Dacorum borough of Hertfordshire.
Jessica Swindells, daughter of Stags captain BJ Swindells, who attends the school, was presented with a special shirt by Mike(pictured above) and it turned out that one of the school governors is a big Hull KR fan!
The next stop was Kings Langley Secondary School, where they delivered Rugby League in a PE lesson to the Year 8 group, splitting them into small units so each player was involved in the coaching.
Each school received Hull KR memorabilia which was enthusiastically received.
“It was only a one-off arrangement, not the beginning of a dual registration deal or anything,” said Mike. “It was purely to push the players out of their comfort zone. But for us it was great for them to come down and raise the profile of Rugby League.”