England are to play a commemorative match against a Cumbria representative team to raise funds for the family of Garry Purdham.
The 31-year-old former Whitehaven, Workington Town and Egremont player was one of 12 people killed by gunman Derrick Bird in Cumbria earlier this month, a tragedy which will have lifelong consequences for his wife Ros and their two young children, Flynn and Cameron.
To help the Purdhams, England will play a select team of professional and community players from the county at Whitehaven’s Recreation Ground on Sunday October 3.
The match takes place the day after the Engage Super League Grand Final and will comprise members of the England squad who are preparing to fly out for New Zealand and Australia three days later to compete in the 2010 Four Nations.
“The events of a fortnight ago were a tragedy of incomprehensible proportions which afflicted a region where Rugby League is an intrinsic part of the community,” said RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood.
“Few of us can imagine what the Purdham family have gone through since they lost Garry but everyone within Rugby League wants to do the right thing by them and this game will achieve just that.
“As soon as the idea was suggested to Steve McNamara he was all for it. I am sure his reaction is going to be reflected in massive interest in this game, both in Cumbria and across the country.”
Although players involved in the Grand Final will not be available for selection, England coach Steve McNamara’s team will be the strongest line-up seen in Cumbria for generations.
A 24-man England squad is scheduled to fly to Auckland on Wednesday June and McNamara believes all the players who miss out on an Engage Super League Grand Final appearance will be hoping to board the plane with bumps and bruises from The Recreation Ground.
“All the Super League players knew of Garry from playing with or against his brother Rob, the Harlequins RL captain, and I’m sure they will want to put on a good show on October 3,” said McNamara.
“As well as helping raise a lot of money for the family, the match will be a useful exercise in our preparations for the Four Nations.
“Hopefully as many people as possible will get behind this match: I can’t think of a more worthy cause.”
Further details of selection plans, coaching arrangements and other logistical aspects of the game will be finalised in the coming months following consultation between the RFL and an organising committee comprising the clubs Garry Purdham played for and the Purdham family.