Rugby League has recently celebrated its birth, the game was born on 29 August 1895 when 21 clubs voted to break away from the Rugby Football Union to form the Northern Rugby Football Union, which would later become the Rugby Football League.
The word ‘Northern’ which was added to recognise the split can be seen by many as what prevents the game from growing outside the games heartlands, it is still seen by many as a northern sport 124 years on.
Many clubs however, some established for many years, are seeing a great deal of success and are playing out of areas such as the North East, the Midlands, London and the South West to name but a few. The support for these clubs is minimal and a lot of the success is down to a large number of volunteers who have a real passion for the game and what it has to offer for those who become part of the rugby league family.
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This has been the case in Oxfordshire since the County established its first rugby league club, the Oxford Cavaliers in 1996. The club has welcomed many people with open arms over the years, more notably former Henry Box brothers Darrell, Josh and George Griffin who have gone on to achieve great things within the sport.
More recently the club has set up a youth section and have provided opportunities for more players such as Sean Baker and Owen Michael to go on and sign contracts at London Broncos Academy sides.
The club left their rented home at Oxford RFC, North Hinksey at the start of the year to build a home of their own in Merton, Bicester and their first season has been a real success with the men’s side finishing runners up in the West of England Plate Final and the youth section getting between 75 and 80 players attending training every week.
Schools delivery in Oxfordshire is also on the up as a number of schools have been receiving coaching from Radical Rugby, the counties only rugby league coaching company that is also working hard to build foundations in other counties such as Gloucestershire and Berkshire. The company delivered three festivals in 2019 alongside Oxford Cavaliers which saw close to 400 students participating in rugby league be it as players, coaches or officials.
There is a growing need for another outlet from all the schools activity taking place as interest and bookings have already increased for 2020.
It is for this reason why a new club will be launched on 18 September that will serve the West Oxfordshire area.
There are a number of other reasons as to why such a club is about to be launched, they include increasing mental health issues, inactivity and rising obesity levels. A recent study reported on by Active Oxfordshire stated that 80% of Oxfordshire children don’t meet the required daily activity guidelines and it is our responsibility to put plans in place to try to combat this.
“The vision for Year one is to develop this new club in the right way, to start small and grow it slowly” says rugby league enthusiast John Connaughton who is driving this.
“We will start by providing opportunities for both boys and girls from the ages of 7 to 14 (school years 3 to 8) as these are the age groups we have focused delivery on over the last 12 months.
“The new club will also recognise Oxfordshires links to the Civil War (as the Oxford Cavaliers do) and will focus a lot of their attention on the schools development programme.
“The final target for year one will be to put out a team for fixtures against local opposition such as Oxford Cavaliers, Gloucestershire All Golds, Cheltenham Phoenix and Reading Raiders”
Connaughton went on to inform us that the vision however doesn’t stop at the introduction of a new club, it sees a schools development programme where players will be put forward from festivals to represent areas such as North and West Oxfordshire, a West of England junior league that will then feed into representative rugby, and then the best of the West of England will go on to play the likes of North and South London who play in their own Origin Series each year.
The game maybe in its infancy in Oxfordshire but there have been some great foundations that have been laid over the past six years and the future of the game is certainly looking bright in the county thanks to a small but growing group of volunteers.
For more information on the new club you can contact John at [email protected]
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