So there I was in west London helping to mark the pitch out ready for the London and South Girls Champion Schools Festival the other week when my phone rings. It’s a Rugby League journalist from a national newspaper asking me about the signing of sprinter Dwain Chambers by London Broncos.
“What?” I shouted, “You’re joking!” Although nothing would surprise me these days it suddenly dawned on me that it was the first of the month. “It’s an April Fool,” I said. Well that’s as maybe but apparently it was on the Love Rugby League website so it had to be checked out.
Later that day I got a call from Sky Sports asking if it was true and then another from a major sports radio station wanting to interview Chambers that evening!
Of course six years ago Chambers played a reserve game for Castleford so I can see where the idea came from, just wish Love Rugby League had made some reference to the date in their piece. Having said that it does show that journalists have to follow every lead no matter now crazy it sounds.
But the real excitement that day was on the pitch. The Year 7, 8 and 9 girls served up some terrific Rugby League with the Year 8 final going into golden point extra time. Richmond Park Academy and Leigh Academy from Dartford, Kent were locked at one try apiece at the final whistle before Richmond touched down two minutes into extra time to win in.
The parents of one of the girls on the Richmond team were there to watch – they were from the USA and had only been here since January. They couldn’t believe that their daughter was playing Rugby League but said she loved it and had made friends very quickly because of it.
The Year 7 and Year 9 finalists were told they had qualified for the National Festival at St Helens. Clearly the girls had never heard of my home town given the quizzical looks when they were told. Don’t they do geography in schools these days?
A few days later I was down in Surrey to watch some Boys Champion Schools games with Howard of Effingham’s Year 7 and Year 8 teams taking on their counterparts from St Peter’s, Gloucester. The Year 8 match was a cracking contest with some great handling and terrific defending from both sides – St Peter’s going on to win it 28-18.
At a recent meeting of the senior clubs in the Tier 5 competition I was sad to learn of the demise of Hammersmith Hills Hoists. Apparently their sponsor had closed down and as they didn’t charge match fees this was their only income so they were unable to continue.
Given that their secretary used to live above a ‘Gentleman’s Club’ and the Hoists held their AGMs there I wondered whether this was the establishment in question. But no, it’s The Walkabout in Shepherd’s Bush that closed.
However, the great thing about London Rugby League is that there’s always a phoenix ready to rise from the ashes. Step forward Wests Warriors, a new club who will be playing at the Hoists old ground, Twyford Avenue in Acton.
They’ll kick off in the Entry League but will be looking to test themselves against some of the higher league sides when they have a free Saturday. Incidentally, one of the Wests guys, Matt Ashe, reckons his younger brother Nathan might turn out for them. The 22-year-old was with St Helens up to last season and made 10 Super League appearances before injuries took their toll. He’s one to look out for when the season kicks off in May.
The London Broncos CEO Gus Mackay has left the club after three years and it’s certainly been an eventful time in the history of the Broncos.
Great to see former coach Rob Powell installed as head coach at Medway Dragons. Given his pedigree for developing players, it seems like a good move for this ambitious club.
The London Broncos Under-19s are showing the first team how to do it by notching up their second win of the season against the Salford Red Devils. People were wondering if Dr Koukash might march into their changing room and sack the coach!
London Skolars play their last game on grass at the New River Stadium on Sunday. They are moving while an artificial grass pitch in installed - say goodbye to the mud boys (except when you play up North!).