10th January 2020, 14:08 | ChallengeCup
Bedford Tigers will make their first ever appearance in the Coral Challenge Cup at Distington this weekend (Saturday 11 January) - and the Southern Conference League side will be stepping out in style.
The Tigers will be wearing a new kit specially designed to mark the occasion, with the club's traditional black with orange trim jerseys now featuring a watermark of the historic trophy.
Back row forward Rob Ashton, who in 2009 was instrumental in saving the club from extinction, explains:
"We've been on the cusp of Challenge Cup qualification so many times in our 15 year history that celebrating this magic moment seems the right thing to do. We don’t know when this chance will come again."
Bedford Tigers is one of the few Rugby League clubs in the south of England with its own ground and the club is at the heart of the game's successful county-wide junior development programme. It’s all a far cry from 2009 when a core group of four members met in a Bedford pub to perform the club's last rites.
"We have a real battle on our hands at Distington," adds Rob, "and we had a real battle on our hands back in 2009. We could have gone under but for people like Graham Brown and several others who have stuck with us and are now seeing the benefits.
"We're building the Tigers brand and trying to look as professional as an amateur club can do. We have a really strong core group who are all pulling in one direction."
Bedford have named a 19-man squad for the clash against 2019 Cumberland Cup winners Distington, who in 2018 reached the third round of the competition before being knocked out by League 1 side Coventry Bears.
Josh Burton, Ben Hangar and Callum Moon are in line for their Tigers' debuts.
Kick off at Distington's Grass Road ground is at 2pm.