8th June 2020, 18:15 | Community
Despite the suspension of regular Rugby League fixtures, Virtual Rugby League is spreading.
The second round of fixtures in the RFL’s Virtual Game Day initiative included a triangular shoot-out between the youngsters of Chorley Panthers in Lancashire, Wibsey Warriors in Bradford – and the West Oxfordshire Levellers.
The Levellers were founded in the picturesque Cotswolds market town of Burford last September, with the aim of entering the West of England Youth Development League.
Covid-19 put paid to those plans, as to so much else. But the Levellers underlined their enthusiasm for Rugby League by signing up for Virtual Game Days – and made their debut at the weekend, in highly unusual circumstances.
Virtual Game Days have been designed by the RFL’s Development and Operations Teams to allow players of all ages to build on the drills involved in #Skilltoplay and #Fittoplay – while maintaining social distancing.
The big difference is that teams are encouraged to reform virtually, and to compete in virtual fixtures - with a pre-match gathering and team-talk, before they head outside to pursue points for delivering their skills successfully.
There are no geographical limits to such fixtures, allowing the Levellers to face opposition from both sides of the Pennines in their debut fixture.
Wibsey Warriors struck a blow for Yorkshire by scoring the most points – but both they and the Panthers were delighted to welcome the Levellers to the Rugby League family.
Marc Lovering, the RFL’s Director of Participation and Development, said: “Among all the challenges of the recent period, we’ve been delighted by the response to #Fittoplay, #Skilltoplay and now Virtual Clubs.
“One undeniable advantage of Virtual Clubs is there are no geographical barriers. We were delighted to welcome West Oxfordshire Levellers to the competition this week, and we’ve also had some interest from the Middle East!
“Everyone who has taken part, whether coaches, players or parents, have said it’s a great way of getting in contact with your friends and team-mates, and competing together – and the example of the Levellers shows it’s also a way of making in contact with people from different parts of the country.
“We want this initiative to keep building momentum for as long as the current restrictions apply, and to see as many youngsters as possible working on their rugby skills before the community game can resume.
“Government guidance now permits small group fitness and skills based activity. That is positive news, but it is the first small step in a return to play. Not all clubs are looking to return immediately, having carefully considered their individual circumstances, whilst some clubs have plans in place to return.
“In either case we’d still encourage clubs to engage with Virtual Rugby League - whether that is just video platform-based training or a combination of virtual and non-contact sessions. Even those clubs who are planning a return to small group activity will have players who cannot attend and virtual sessions are a great way of keeping those players active and engaged. Virtual Game Day initiatives can add focus to the activity which takes place during the week, whether that is virtual or physical. ”
To register your club for Virtual Rugby League, please complete the Virtual Fixtures - Team registration form.