Organisers hope Olympic legacy will inspire youngsters
NOW that the new rugby league season is well and truly under way, a new youth team is about to be reborn in the South Lakes.
Furness Rugby Club Juniors team, the Crusaders, will be back in action from this Sunday, with club veterans volunteering to teach the youngsters.
With the success of the female rugby sevens team in the Rio Olympics, organisers are also hoping that girls will turn out to try the traditionally male dominated sport.
The original Furness Crusaders disbanded about four years ago because there were not enough volunteers. However, chairman of the new Crusaders, Peter Helme, is hoping for a big success this time around.
He said: "All children will be welcome from the ages of 10-16. I think it is really important that children get to chance to play a sport they love and we won't be turning anybody away.
"I was prompted to rekindle the junior section at Furness by my own son Will, who is 14. He plays a bit of rugby at school but was dying to play at weekends too and play for a club.
"I am really encouraging girls to join up too, my daughter Izzy will hopefully be able to attend the Sunday training sessions and they are great for fitness.
"We had a full ladies team compete in our recent sevens tournament from Barrow Island (Barrow Ladies) and they were pretty formidable so I hope that encourages more girls in to the sport."
The first training session for the new youth academy will take place at 10.30am at at Furness Rugby Club in Croslands Park Road, Barrow.
Mr Helme, 51, of Long Lane, Dalton, hopes that eventually the youngsters will be able to compete against other Cumbrian teams next season.
Furness Rugby Club held a mixed tag sevens tournament on August 28 to raise awareness for the new junior academy and it was a huge success. There were five teams who went along to play at the Strawberry Grounds and a good proportion were under 16.
Mr Helme said: "I was so pleased with the turnout we had for the tag tournament. The best thing about it was that there was such a great family atmosphere. All the parents came to watch and we had a good barbecue.
"I think the youngest player was about eight and then there were a few lads around my age of 51. It was very inclusive and we saw a lot of talented youngsters outshining some of the old hands."
Mr Helme has been a devoted member of Furness Rugby Club since he was a teenager and has taken the initiative to help more young people feel part of something they can enjoy for a substantial part of their lives.
He said: “There are quite a few of the lads – former players, current players – who have got their own lads or relations interested in taking the sport up again, so we have decided to get it up and running."
Mr Helme and other Furness stalwarts such as Craig McKinnon, Phil Danson and Joe Mallinson have all been coached in a Rugby Ready course, led by Garry Holmes, the RFU community coach for Barrow, Eden and South Lakes. They now feel ready for full contact tackling on Sunday mornings, teaching one of Britain's oldest and most traditional sports to a new generation.
Mr Helme's son, Will, 14, said: "I am really excited to start playing on Sundays. A lot of my friends play rugby and I enjoy playing at school. It's not the same as having a club to play for though and I am looking forward to taking things to the next level and getting the chance to represent Furness."