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Yorkshire Juniors

A history of the Yorkshire Juniors & Youth League

Prior to 1974, all junior rugby was played only in schools, and with schools that did not have rugby in their weekly curriculum (as most did not) it meant that many youngsters did not get the chance to learn the skills of Rugby League.

In 1974, a group of enthusiasts from Dewsbury and Batley realised the need for providing Rugby League for youngsters in the area.

A series of coaching sessions were organised at Savile Town, Dewsbury, inviting youngsters to come along each Saturday for six weeks free of charge.

Over 140 boys turned up for the first training session which had been organised by Dewsbury RLFC coach Maurice Bamford and assisted by several Dewsbury players and local community coaches.

At the end of the six coaching sessions, it was decided to form a league at under 15s level with Shaw Cross, Dewsbury Moor, Thornhill and Dewsbury Boys all becoming founder members.

An inaugural meeting was held at Shaw Cross Boys Club in Dewsbury, where they are still held to this day, and it was decided to form the Kirklees Junior Amateur Rugby League.

Early appointments to the league saw Norman Waite introduced as Chairman, after Stan Baron had held the role for a few months, then Alf Tattersfield as Secretary and Les Hardy as Treasurer.

It was decided to extend the coaching sessions to Batley, then sessions at Drighlington, Spenborough, Ossett and Horbury followed. From there, teams were formed and recruited to join the league.

The league increased in 1975 with an under 13s age group formed and, by 1978, they were running under 10s, 12s, 14s and under 16s leagues.

The growth of the league resulted in an inevitable change of name and it became the Yorkshire Junior League.

Over the next few years, teams from Castleford, Wakefield, York and Leeds had joined to increase its membership and it became the biggest league in B.A.R.L.A, running teams at under 8s, 9s, 10s, 11s, 12s, 13s, 14s and 15s, providing grassroots Rugby League for over 4,000 youngsters, representing over 50 Clubs and 200 teams.

In 1999, the Yorkshire Junior League celebrated its Silver Jubilee which had been achieved by the stability of the long serving Management of Reg Rowbottom, Chairman for 17 years, Colin Handforth, Treasurer for 15 years, Dougie Eastwood, who was Secretary and Fixture Secretary for 10 years and Dave Wright, Fixture Secretary for 20 years.

Founder members present on the night were J Berry, J Salisbury, G Cox, A Tattersfield and D Hird BEM.

In 2002, the Yorkshire Juniors Delegates made a decision to end their ties with B.A.R.L.A and run the Yorkshire Junior League on their own.

And, in the years since that decision, the dedicated Management Committee, led by President Denise Waite, Chairman John Peat, Treasurer Colin Handforth and General Secretary Charlie Bray, along with the many new and old committee members over the years, has taken the league from strength to strength.

The Yorkshire Junior League has now achieved the Sport England 'Leaguemark' - an accreditation which which recognises the high-standard administration of the league.
The 2012 season was the beginning of a new chapter in the league's history when the whole of the Yorkshire Juniors switched to play in the summer.

A short league between September and November preceded the league before March 2012 saw the big summer kick off.

That year saw a host of new clubs join up from across Yorkshire, increasing the league to over 70 clubs and 300 teams, before the league became the largest it has ever been in 2013 after the introduction of a new under 16s Youth League.

As of 2016, the league now hosts over 100 different clubs and is the largest rugby league in Europe.