The Learning Disability Rugby League (LDRL) season comes to a festival finale this weekend (Sunday 26 September) at York St John’s University’s Haxby Road Campus.
LDRL returned in 2021 after the whole of the 2020 season was lost to the pandemic. People with learning disabilities have been among the worst affected by the pandemic in terms of physical and mental health and social exclusion.
On Sunday as many as 200 players from across the north of England – including Castleford, Featherstone, Hull FC, Hull KR, Leeds, Newcastle, St Helens, Salford, Wakefield, Warrington, Widnes, Wigan and York – will bring the curtain down on a record-breaking ‘return to play’ season.
This year the number of LDRL participants was more than double the number in 2019, with a record 13 teams taking part in the Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League.
Ahead of the event, LDRL players from the foundations joined England international and RLWC2021 Ambassador Jodie Cunningham for a media session specially arranged by Community Integrated Care and the RFL.
Jodie Cunningham says:
“It was an honour to be involved, and a pleasure to meet some of the LDRL players who will be involved this Sunday. It promises to be a memorable event.”
During the session the players revealed their personal highlights from the season, named the people who inspire them and looked ahead to Sunday’s festival. Warrington Wolves’ Ben Mitchell described scoring his first ‘proper’ Rugby League try, Leeds Rhinos’ Declan Jenkinson told how it was the example of Rhinos legend Rob Burrow that encouraged him to take up the game. With previous festivals having been held on a regional basis, all foundation representatives looked forward to the opportunity of meeting and playing against players from all of the LDRL teams.
RFL Social and Inclusion Manager, Chris Godfrey, says:
“People with learning disabilities are acknowledged to be among the most vulnerable to Covid-19, so their return to play came latest and safest. LDRL players and foundations have risen to the challenge, and Sunday’s festival is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to them and to Community Integrated Care for their valuable support.”
York St John’s received more than a quarter of a million pounds from the RLWC2021 CreatedBy grant scheme towards a £1milion development at Haxby Broad, including the 3G pitch on which the festival will be played. The campus is now a hub for Rugby League activity in the Minster city, offering all variations of the community game year-round access to training facilities