18 May 2016 in News
Over 6,000 junior players and their families from 140 community club teams took part in the UK's biggest ever junior Rugby League festival at the weekend organised by ESF Events and supported by the Leeds Rhinos Foundation.
The Rhinos Challenge event, hosted at Butlins Resort in Skegness, brought together community Rugby League clubs from as far as Essex, Cumbria and Tyne and Wear for the two-day festival which hosts teams from under 8s to under 15s.
The all-inclusive tour experience which has been running since 2013, provided all tournament guests with accommodation and catering at the award winning Butlins resort in Skegness including a funfair, bowling, cinema, go-kart track and £15 million Splash Water Park all on site.
The rugby festival, which took place at three venues around the town, culminated in a spectacular presentation event show in the premier entertainment venues on site at Butlins, which was attended by Leeds Rhinos stars Carl Ablett, Ashton Golding, Jordan Lilley, Ryan Hall, Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Danny McGuire.
Every player from the festival received a participation medal and took team pictures on stage with the players, with winning teams also collecting their trophies as a perfect memento from the trip for the young players and their families.
Speaking at the event Danny McGuire said:
"Going on tour as a young player is great for morale and team spirit, walking around the event I can see how excited the young players are to be here enjoying a rugby festival of this size and playing teams from different parts of the country."
"Credit should go to to the Leeds Rhinos Foundation and ESF Events for arranging such a fantastic event creating these memorable opportunities for young people."
Coaches from Batley Boys, who won the under 12's Main Cup competition at the Festival commented:
"It's been really good to see so many teams from all over the country, we've got Hull, Liverpool and clubs from all over here, so it's been a really fantastic weekend.
"It just says everything about Rugby League really, 140 rugby league teams all taking part in a brilliant set up from the Rhinos and ESF events, it's been a brilliant atmosphere with everyone getting on a being friendly, so it's been brilliant."
Teams from parts of the country where Rugby League is less prominent were also taking part in the weekend to give their teams experience of competing against other teams in the UK. Brentwood Eels from Essex played in the Under 15s tournament commenting:
"We play against teams in London, and obviously Union is the major sport down there, so it's difficult to get the boys together for anything more than around 4 months of the year to play Rugby League, so coming up here is quite tough but the boys love it and i've said to the boys that they can only learn by playing against the best, which is why we come."
Rhinos Challenge offers two days of fantastic competition play for the teams, who have games split over the two days, but also provides a unique opportunity for teams to bond off the field, all on site at the Butlins Resort as the head Coach from Wigan St Judes explains:
"It's been fantastic with the water parks and all that sides of things, it's a little bit of extra entertainment for the kids as well as rugby and also a bit of respite for the parents so they can go an enjoy themselves, so its a full package as a family experience, going an playing rugby out of your normal Sunday routines and also as well been able to socialise and go out with the rest of the team is invaluable."
Heworth fielded 6 junior teams in the tournament, the under 13s managed to get to the play-off final only to be defeated by Emley Moor, the Under 9s won their play-off final 4-2 against Birstall Victoria, but the biggest talking point of the weekend was the under 12s result in the play-off final when they defeated local city rivals York Acorn 3-1 to round off an incredible weekend!