Tonight, the Presidents Cup makes a welcome return to the RFL calendar when the representative teams Great Britain Teachers, England Universities, UK Armed Forces and Great Britain Police clash over a series of games to be played at Saddleworth, Lock Lane and Leigh Miners Rangers.
Action gets underway at 6pm on the 30th March when UK Armed Forces take on GB Police before GB Teachers go up against the England Universities side.
It's an interesting start for the Great Britain Police side who usually take their place in the early rounds of the BetFred Challenge Cup.
Team manager Chris Cowling takes up the story of their involvement.
"The Police have been playing in this competition for quite a number of years." He said, "I go back to 2007/8 when I was a player.
"The competition was introduced as a way of improving the sides to go on and play in their respective World Cups, so you had your Student World Cup, Police World Cup, and Armed Forces World Cup. It was to help our sides compete better against foreign teams.
"Police RL by nature is quite difficult, not just in terms of the job, but also the shift patterns that we work and the ability to be able to draw on the lads to be able to commit to the training sessions and ultimately games.
"We often find when we go into these games, be they Presidents Cup or the Challenge Cup that our teams can differ from one week to the next.
"Police RL has been around for quite a few years now and part of that is down to Jon Hamer, former Bradford Bulls prop and West Yorkshire Police Officer who has now retired from the force. Jon did a great amount of work in setting up Police RL, really getting behind the lads to commit and get to training sessions.
"When I took over as team manager in 2015, the foundations had already been laid. We have a good pool of players to be able to select from now."
He continued, "Generally our squads are selected on the basis of inter forces games that we play. West Yorkshire has a side, Greater Manchester joins with Lancashire to compete, then we have Merseyside and Cheshire, and we also have some lads that fall outside those force areas too. We have some from Thames Valley and in the past, we've also had guys from the Metropolitan Police, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. Our Head coach Bob Marsden will ultimately select the side."
Speaking of the Presidents Cup, Cowling was thankful for the competition that it provides.
"The Presidents Cup really helps us. It just takes away that added pressure of having to arrange fixtures and source venues - we come together through the RFL and it's all laid on, which is of benefit to us.
"We are playing at some really great venues - community clubs that are at the heart of their communities and do some great things within the amateur game. We are really looking forward to playing at Saddleworth, Lock Lane and Leigh Miners Rangers.
"Sometimes we prefer midweek games as well. They can be a bit more straightforward than a weekend when lads are playing for their community clubs aside from ourselves."
There is a new encouraging environment for following sport in the Police.
"The police encourage sporting activity and we can pull on the pool of players we have to make sure we get a squad out for every game or training session.
"Pre-covid, we had a tour to Australia planned. We also have some really good players at the moment, for example, Rob Worrincy, ex Sheffield Eagles, and Halifax who has been around the game for a number of years. Then there is Scott Leatherbarrow who had previous stints with Batley and Oldham. He's joined Greater Manchester Police in the last couple of years and also another really good player who has joined us from Merseyside is Sam Wilde, who is going well for Widnes.
"There are some key players there and aside from that, some who have been around the squad for a number of years. All in all, we have a strong squad - it's just a case of us getting these players all together and available."
What about the aims for this year?
"We have improved massively over the last three or four years. The ultimate aim is to set our standard and that is to try and cause an upset. Historically in this competition, it's always been the Armed Forces and England Universities that would playoff for the title in the final game - leaving ourselves and the Teachers to fight it out for third place, but we've got to aim to cause an upset!
"It's about having the right preparation and mindset and ultimately having that little luck on our side."
The full itinerary is as follows
30th March – Saddleworth Rangers:
- 6.00pm - UK Armed Forces v GB Police
- 8.00pm – GB Teachers v England Universities
27th April – Lock Lane:
- 6.00pm – England Universities v GB Police
- 8.00pm – GB Teachers v UK Armed Forces
25th May – Leigh Miners:
- 6.00pm – GB Police v GB Teachers
- 8.00pm – UK Armed Forces v England Universities