How Forth Valley Vikings became Scotland’s newest club

Josh McAllister

Scotland’s newest rugby league team are doing their bit to help spread the sport.

The club, based in Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire at Hillfoots RFC grounds, were only formed at the end of 2020, helping the rebirth of the sport in the country which has also seen Aberdeen Warriors set a return date of 2022.

SPONSORS: Love Rugby League sponsors Scotland’s newest club

There is also a 9s competition penned in the calendar in the country, with the lack of activity over the last 14-months inspiring a surge in popularity for the sport.

Kris Illingworth, founder of Forth Valley Vikings, moved up to the area in 2018 and played rugby union at Hillfoots RFC before making the idea a reality.

He said: “I had spoken about it for a few years. One of the guys took me under his wing at Hillfoots as I had never played rugby union before and I said I want to start a rugby league team at some point and it will happen.

“Going through lockdown last year, I thought it’s now or never to start a rugby league team. A few boys talked about rugby league and we had used it for fitness and touch rugby, so I just thought I’ll ask around and see how many want to play. I got in touch with Scotland Rugby League and it went on from there.”

Love Rugby League are proud sponsors of Forth Valley Vikings

Forth Valley Vikings, who secured a sponsorship deal with earlier this year, have had full attendance at training since April, and recently appointed Callum Williamson and Jordan Usher as captain and vice-captain respectively.

The Vikings start their season on June 26 against Strathmore Silverbacks, but not before an inter-club match in which will see a ‘Yorkshire v Lancashire’ charity fixture, raising money for the MND association. 

Illingworth added: “Training started in April, and there has only been one session where we haven’t had full numbers of 30, which works out 15 players per coach between myself and the assistant coach. We’ve got another guy who has been helping out called Mark Milnes, while the assistant is David Grainey.

“We have a charity day on June 5, an inter-club game of Yorkshire v Lancashire as we have quite a lot of boys that are linked to the counties. I’m Yorkshire, and Grainey lived in Wigan for his early years and his dad is from Wigan. 

“It’s a battle of the coaches and a charity game for the Rob Burrow fund and MND association. We’ve got enough for two teams, and also have a few raffles and a charity walk that is 37 miles, starting from the club and ending in Loch Lomond all to help raise money.”

Illingworth also confirmed that the club are looking at starting youth teams at Under-16s and Under-18s, adding: “Boys have come back because they’ve not been able to for the past few years, and now they want to come back and get back into it.

“We have six guys who have played rugby league before in England – guys with rugby league experience by watching and going to games and then we have guys who have never played and want to get a game. 

“We’re opening up to 16s and 18s soon. We have six players in the Open Age at Under-18s at the minute. We’re opening a training session for these lads to compete with each other at the same age, I want to get Under-18s fixtures to play against their own age. 

“We have 65 players in our Facebook Forth Valley Vikings players group. Aberdeen Warriors were an older team but disbanded a few years ago, but they’re coming back. The game is growing again now and getting back to where it should be.”

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