The largest ever international Festival of Masters Rugby League saw teams from Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Wales and hosts England gather on a misty November Sunday in York. The weather might have been cool but the warmth of the Masters spirit, together with the greetings and welcomes from friends new and old, meant everyone enjoyed their day.
The teams lined up and were introduced by their captains to Festival and England team sponsor, Chris Cocks, of Taylor’s Clematis. The national anthems from all six nations were sung with gusto by the teams. Before starting the first games, a representative from each nation and one from the referees stood together for the reading of the Anzac poem, and a minute’s silence in memory of those who had fallen for their country.
The two first-class artificial pitches at York St John’s University guaranteed that the games would go ahead, and also provided great surfaces for fast and fluent Masters. Let the fun begin.
France, newcomers to international Masters Rugby League, watched with interest as England and Australia played the first game. France in their first-ever game took on Canada, and Saguer Mathieu was France’s first try scorer. Canada were playing their second game, having already been a part of an exciting opening game with Ireland.
Wales started their day with a great contest against Australia, who were fresh from their game with England. The Welsh followed this with a fascinating face-off versus Ireland. The final game of the day saw England take on the newcomers, France. France demonstrated an expansive playing style throughout, and were certainly a match for England.
The traditional post-tournament presentation took place in the Sports Barn as the players tucked into some refreshments. Man of the Match awards for each country were presented by sponsor Chris from Taylor’s Clematis. There were also three special “Spirit of Masters Awards” presented by Suzy from Taylor’s Clematis. These were awarded to Masters Chairman, Martin Flynn for his tireless work in promoting the Masters game, to Chris Thomas of Wales for his Masters development work in South Wales, and to Stephane Verne of the Galia Tots and France for his continued development work in France.
Following this, Masters of Rugby League Australia CEO, Malcolm Duncan, made one of his legendary, passionate speeches, before presenting awards to a player from each nation, to referees Kev Redmond and Terry Mellor, and to the captains of both England and Wales.
As is now tradition at Masters games and events, the socialising continued late into the evening with players from all teams gathering in the centre of York.
After what was yet another highly successful and enjoyable Masters event, it has now been confirmed that the next RLWC Masters Festival will take place in France in 2025.