Harlequins skipper Rob Purdham admits that he’ll have divided loyalties going to the New River Stadium on Saturday to watch London Skolars take on Egremont Rangers in the third round of the Carnegie Challenge Cup.
Rob began his Rugby League career with the Cumbrian amateur club, starting there at the age of seven and leaving 11 years later to sign for Whitehaven. However, currently in his benefit year having spent 10 years playing professionally in the capital, he has a soft spot for London Rugby League.
“Egremont were the club who got me into Rugby League,” he said. “On the other side of the fence there’s London. I want London Rugby League to thrive whatever the team, so I’m a bit torn really.”
Current Egremont prop John Young played alongside Rob, as did their coach John Brocklebank. “There’s still a few old faces,” added Rob, “but they’re got a very young team who are going quite well. When I played Open Age at Egremont we won the National Conference Premier Division title.
“A couple of years after that they dropped out but four or five years ago got back and now play in National Conference League Division Two.”
The Skolars would be well advised not to take the Cumbrian outfit lightly because the Quins skipper was in the side who caused a real cup upset back in 1998. “We beat Workington, who were professional at the time, in the fourth round and in the next round we played the Sheffield Eagles who went on to win it.
“Another Cumbrian amateur team, Wath Brow, played London Broncos a few years ago down here and put up a decent show.” Wath Brow also beat Skolars in Cumbria in the Challenge Cup back in 2009. Skolars will be missing Welsh international Matt Thomas, after being suspended for one game following a high tackle in the draw against York City Knights.
So has Rob passed on any inside information to his friends in the North? “I’ve spoken to a couple of lads from there since the cup draw,” admits Rob. “John Brocklebank, their coach rang me and I thought he might have wanted to pick my brains about the Skolars but he was just asking about where to stay on the Saturday night after the game.
“Although Skolars must be favourites, it’s a massive game for Egremont and I think they’re fancying their chances.”
So are there any Rangers players that Skolars should be wary of? “The Leak brothers, Alistair and Anthony Leak and the coach’s son John-Paul Brocklebank. He’s a young loose forward who played for Cumbria against England in my brother’s testimonial game. He’s a really good player and could step up and play professional rugby.”
A special deal has been struck between the Skolars and Harlequins, which will enable Quins fans to watch the game at a reduced price. Skolars general manager, Howard Kramer, said: “We have seen a strengthening of relationships between Skolars and Harlequins RL over the past 12 months and this match against Egremont gives us an opportunity to offer Harlequins fans a reduced price ticket (£5) to watch the game.
“I am grateful to Harlequins CEO Gus Mackay, who was quick to endorse our proposed offer. All Harlequins RL fans have to do is produce their season tickets or their match tickets from the Huddersfield game on Friday night to get their half price ticket. We’re keen to get a good crowd in for the match, which means so much to both clubs”.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Rob who said: “I’m sure anybody going up there will see a decent game. Egremont have played some big games recently. They are very young and very enthusiastic side who throw the ball around and know how to play the conditions – I think it will be a good entertaining game.”
Rob’s late brother Garry started and ended his Rugby League career with Egremont and there will be a collection at the game for the Garry Purdham Memorial Trust.
The game kicks off at 3.30pm at New River Stadium.