22nd October 2020, 23:32 | Community
Community Rugby League roared back into action after a seven month absence on Saturday, with more fixtures to follow this coming weekend - including a behind closed doors Open Age pilot match between Wigan St Pats and Orrell St James on Saturday.
But it was the kids who took centre stage last weekend, as youth ans junior Rugby League was played for the first time since March in the UK - with fixtures and festivals taking place all over the country.
In London, Brixton Bulls held their first Primary Rugby League festival of the year, welcoming teams from clubs such as Eastern Rhinos, Medway Dragons and London Skolars.
Bulls Chair Philippa Robson commented: "The under sevens had a fabulous time, all going home with a medal and a smile on their faces.
"The under nines played a one-off 30 minute game and had a great time - quickly asking when the next game would be taking place!
"The u11s played a round robin of games with both Brixton and Skolars having enough players to field two teams apiece, along with a Medway and Eastern combined team - some fantastic rugby was displayed by all.
"We would like to thank all the clubs that travelled to us and to all our volunteers who managed to get the festival on and Covid safe.
"It was so good to be back on the playing field after such a long time away. Rugby League was the winner of the day and we were very proud of our sport and to the RFL who have worked tirelessly to get the community game back up and running."
These were the scenes as junior Rugby League took hold once again in the North East of England:
Elsewhere, Nottinghamshire-based Bassetlaw Bulldogs also hosted 55 junior players across three different age groups at their home 'The Kennel' on Saturday.
Bolsover Bulls were the visitors and Bulldogs club founder and Chair Phil Abbott said: "From the moment the visitors from Bolsover Bulls arrived, the excitement was palpable! It had been so long since any of the participants had played competitive Rugby League.
"To say there had been such a gap between games, the quality of play was excellent. However, it was the positive attitude and behaviour of every player, coach and volunteer that made the day really quite special.
"In leaving no stone unturned, the planning of the event was akin to a major sporting occasion, but many brilliant volunteers pulled together in advance and on the day to make it a safe and enjoyable experience for all.
"Everyone involved simply cannot wait until we get to do this again in a fortnight when both clubs meet in the return fixtures."
👏 Post-match in 2020 ✅— Rugby Football League (@TheRFL) October 18, 2020
🙌 We hope everyone has enjoyed being back out there this weekend!
😀 A huge thank you to all clubs, volunteers and players who have helped us get Junior & Youth Rugby League back underway all over the country...
🎥 @WWRLFoundation pic.twitter.com/kTEp1NOuxF
"I am so proud of the club for what we have achieved," were the words of Swindon St George Chairman Richard White as the Wiltshire club managed to host the club's first set of junior fixtures ever on Saturday.
The junior section at the club is only seven weeks old and nearly all of their players have never played either code of rugby before, with over 50 children getting a taste of a rugby game for the first time.
He said: "None of our kids are linked to any union clubs, so they are all still very raw to rugby as a whole. Mix that in with the fact we are competing for peoples' time while the rugby union season is in full swing, it's a massive start for the club. Everything looks very promising.
"The main focus was on getting the juniors onto the pitch to experience Rugby League for the first time and promoting Rugby League in Swindon & Wiltshire area.
"The day was a massive success with smiles all around. Everyone at the club would like to say a massive thank you to Oxford Cavaliers for making the journey to us for the fixture, Nalgo Sports Club for hosting the events, our amazing club media partners at Your Sports Swindon for filming the games, G waste & TED Mortgages - our junior team sponsor - and to Mazzas Munchies for sponsoring the day.
"If it wasn't for you then none of this would have been possible."
In the north west, Leigh East received widespread plaudits for their efforts as they hosted hundreds of children at Ledgard Avenue in a covid-secure environment, while over 100 kids took part in six games over at Halton Farnworth Hornets in Widnes amongst plenty of other action in the area.
Nice little morning out ... #RLisBACK ... great work from the volunteers and parents to get the thousands of children back on the pitch! Doff of the cap and I’ll raise a glass to you this evening 👏🏽👏🏽 pic.twitter.com/w94eW12k6I— Anthony Atherton (@AJAtherton) October 18, 2020
And in Yorkshire, there were widespread celebrations as the community game returned - 65 games of Rugby League took place across the region.
"We are really pleased that The RFL asked us to work with them for the clubs within our League who opted in to the Autumn Activity," said Donna Simons, General Secretary of Yorkshire Junior & Youth ARL.
"Organising games within the remit has had its challenges, but working together we have come up with solutions. We are really impressed at how the volunteers across the entire game have gone above and beyond for the children within our sport.
"The smiles from this weekend are priceless - memories to last. Proud to play our part."
At Elland ARLFC, weeks of building excitement culminated in a memorable weekend for all who took part.
Gemma Redford, a volunteer at the club, commented: "This weekend saw the return of the younger Elland RLFC teams as they took part in the RFL Return to play.
"To say the kids were ready for a game would be an understatement.
"A week of excitement leading up to their first game back and then for an hour parents and players alike forgot about everything else that was happening in the world and they just enjoyed the moment.
"When it feels like 2020 has taken away so much from everyone, to have rugby back even for a short time is priceless."
The League Management would like to extend a massive THANK YOU to all our clubs & for your continued support & co-operation during these tough times.— Yorkshire Juniors (@YorkshireJunior) October 21, 2020
We have worked together with @GRMsportx to produced this video, which we hope you all like.
In Cumbria, Roose Pioneers Chair Shaun McPoland oversaw the weekend activity which saw over 80 excited kids from the Pioneers, Hindpool Tigers and Walney Central take part in Rugby League matches for the first time since March.
"I would just like to thank the organisers and coaches from Hindpool and Walney for their co-operation in the smooth running of our first games back at Primary level," McPoland said.
"Having the staggered start times allowed for social distancing guidelines to be adhered to. Speaking to parents as they left, the boys and girls were just so happy to be back playing."
Attention now switches to this coming weekend as clubs up and down the country get a chance to do it all again.
Meanwhile, fans wishing to watch the first Open Age fixture from the community game since March - which sees Wigan St Pats host Orrell St James on Saturday, October 24 - can see all the action LIVE on Our League, 3pm kick off.