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1 Feb 2024

Rugby League Lions Association’s Annual Lunch held in Wigan

Rugby League Lions Association’s Annual Lunch held in Wigan

Martin Offiah MBE was presented with his Lions Heritage Certificate by Billy Boston MBE in one of many memorable moments as the Rugby League Lions Association’s Annual Lunch was staged in Wigan last weekend.

The Association was founded in 1945 to reunite players and staff who had been selected for tours and international tournaments held in the southern hemisphere since 1910.

The annual luncheon has become one of the most uplifting events in the sport’s calendar. It was switched to Wigan, in the impressive facilities of The Edge, after a long run on the east of the Pennines, leading to a larger Lancastrian presence - and the sell-out audience enjoyed a memorable afternoon of storytelling, laughter and camaraderie.

More than 60 Lions were present, with huge affection for Boston, the Wales and Wigan legend who first toured with Great Britain in 1954.

The luncheon featured celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the 1974 tour – when the Lions won the second Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground and went agonisingly close to securing the Ashes in the third at the same venue - and the 40th anniversary of the 1984 tour, when a young squad regained credibility for British Rugby League after the mauling inflicted on home soil by the 1982 Kangaroos.

Players from both tours took to the stage to share their memories after watching video highlights of the respective Test series.

In addition to Offiah, Heritage Certificates were awarded to a number of other Lions who were attending their first luncheon: these included five-time tourist Prof Chris Brookes, aka The Doc; 1988 tourist Paul Groves; and Rory Judge of RL Commercial, who was the content manager for the 2019 Lions tour, and the youngest attendee.

RL Lions Association secretary John Ledger said: “The luncheon was a wonderful occasion which underlined the value of reunion events. 

“There are very few opportunities for retired players to get together and enjoy each other’s company, other than funerals for the older players, and it was great to see so many old friendships being rekindled, and new friendships forged among players from different generations.

“All the Lions, from the very first tourists in 1910 through our oldest members Billy Boston, Neil Fox and Lewis Jones to all the players on the 2019 tour, share the same thread of sporting DNA and it’s a real privilege to see them celebrate that common link together.”

The Lions luncheon was sponsored by Ellis Rugby and supported by Rugby League Cares and the Rugby Football League. The next reunion luncheon will be held on Saturday January 25, 2025, at a venue yet to be decided.