The continuing success of the Gillette National Youth League can be seen by the addition of six new clubs for the forthcoming campaign, which is scheduled to start its fifth season in September.
Current champions Celtic Crusaders, who dramatically beat league leaders Leigh Miners Rangers 32-0 in last year’s Grand Final at the Halton Stadium Widnes, are returning to defend their crown but will face even stiffer competition.
Leeds Stannningley, Barrow Lakers, Widnes West Bank Bears, Sheffield Hillsborough Hawks and Castleford Lock Lane are all new to the competition, while Widnes St Maries – who were the inaugural winners in 2005/6 – return to the fold.
They join; East Leeds, Featherstone Lions, Gateshead Thunder, Ince Rose Bridge Wigan, Keighley Cougar Cubs, Leigh East, Saddleworth Rangers, West Hull, West Cumbria and 2006/7 champions Halifax Siddal.
The competition will be spilt into two conferences of nine for fixture planning with two rounds being cross-conference matches, giving a total of 18 regular season rounds.
The highly popular ‘Gillette Friday Night Footy’ will continue to be a feature throughout the winter with the season climaxing with play offs and a Grand Final.
Rugby Football League National Development Manager Andy Harland commented, “The competition has grown from strength to strength each year and this is a further indication of its worth and value.”
“It is highly gratifying that so many clubs want to be involved in what is acknowledged as an elite under 18’s competition.”
“The Great Britain Community Lions under 18’s fly out to Australia next week with the core of the squad from the GNYL, many of whom are being monitored by or have been snapped up by professional clubs.”
Gillette, who are in the second year of a three year deal to back the competition, are delighted to continue their involvement, which is part of the ‘Gillette Champions’ initiative.
The competition will be formally launched on Sunday at Rylands Recreation Club Warrington where, alongside the AGM, the awards for 2008/9 will be handed out.
Celtic Crusaders’ title winning coach Stewart Williams picks up the ‘Gillette National Youth League Coach of the Year’ gong while U18 Community Lion tourist, centre or full back Jonathan Pownall of Leigh Miners Rangers is the ‘Gillette National Youth League Player of the Year’. He has recently been offered a professional contract by home town club Leigh.
East Leeds stalwart Lesley Cosgrove will collect the ‘Gillette National Youth League Unsung Hero’ accolade for her unstinting work managing the Easy Road side.
GILLETTE NATIONAL YOUTH LEAGUE 2009/10 FORMAT
Regular season starts – September 13th 2009
Regular season ends – March 28th 2010
Play Offs start – April 4th 2010
Grand Final – April 25th 2010