Hello and let me introduce myself, I’m John Duffy and I currently play for Leigh Centurions in the Co-operative Championship and do development work on behalf of the club and the RFL in Bolton.
Over the coming months I’ll be writing my thoughts about the game, saying a bit more about the development of this great game and keeping people up to date on loverugbyleague.com.
I came into post twelve months ago when I took over from Shane Eccles in the Centurions Community Department. It was a funding-based role over in Bolton at the time. The funding came to an end and that was when the RFL asked me to come on board on a three year contract with them to try and get rugby league going a bit more over in Bolton with regards primary, high schools and adults playing the game as well. My role is now funded by the RFL and the School Sports Partnership.
It’s more about participation, trying to get a foothold in Bolton, which everyone knows is a football town. It’s about trying to get as many people interested as we can in rugby, which faces it’s challenges with Bolton Wanderers doing so well.
Last year was a successful one as far as development in the area went. The schools successfully held primary festivals and I worked a lot with the schools that are based around, or feed into the high school at Westhoughton.
Basically, the primary schools undertake a six week course for coaching and then take part in a festival with all the other primary schools in the area at the end of the term. I then move onto another cluster and the same thing happens.
Some people might ask if the kids take to the sport and to be honest, sometimes if you say rugby they are not fully enthusiastic, but once they get up and running, they enjoy the game and many are pretty much buzzing at the end of the sessions. We’ve had plenty of school-club links as we call them, where kids from the schools have gone down to the local amateur club which is Westhoughton Lions.
It is all about development as well. What myself and the RFL don’t want after three years of increasing participation, is to leave them with nothing. We want to leave a legacy by the time this contract is up, so that anything we put in place will continue if there comes a time when we are not there.
There is also a high school league running at the minute. That runs through the winter terms and then during the summer terms, they are then on week-to-week festivals where they will play other schools each week. That too, was pretty successful last year. In fact it was so successful that we are doing it all doing it again in 2011.
The idea behind that is to eventually incorporate the schools into the Rugby League’s successful school competitions and wouldn’t it be great to see a Bolton school get the chance of running out at Wembley in future?
Westhoughton Lions are a very pro-active club in the area. They have always got coaches who are willing to lend a hand and come down, or be a face for people to know.
I’m in six primary schools at the moment, its two hours in each school and then I’ve got to get to the high schools as well, so there are four high schools also booked in this term. For example I’m in Westhoughton, Rivington and Blackrod, Bolton School and St Josephs.
As a club at Leigh, we also run classes on healthy lifestyle which Stuart Donlan does. I deliver assemblies and follow up and we also hand out tickets to come down to games. I also try and take other items, the last one I did I took Mick Nanyn’s skullcap down and a team jersey and let pupils try them on. If I can get hold of a player as well, we go down so they can ask them questions. That’s all really healthy at the minute and is going well. Every day is different and it’s a good learning curve. I’m learning all the time and there is a good team around me at the club and from the Service Area as well. I get a lot of support from Ryan Bradley who runs the Bolton-Bury-Rochdale Service Area. Ryan is really pro-active and is always trying to push us everywhere he can in the colleges, universities and schools and I can honestly say that I think it’s all being noted.
Through the Service Area I’m attached to Bolton but because they don’t have anything in place at the moment I tend to work in the Leigh side of the Wigan & Leigh Service Areas, so I go and deliver coaching sessions with Craig Richard and Martin McLoughlin. On this, we are looking at getting a group sorted for summer, so hopefully that will all kick off.
I’ll let everyone know more in future blogs.
Yours in Sport,