Within the space of three weeks during 2010, the town of Warrington lost two of its bravest young men.
Tom Sephton (pictured) and Ste Birdsall both lost their lives serving their country in Afghanistan. Private Sephton died of wounds in Queen Elizabeth Hospital, sustained after an IED explosion in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province. Marine Birdsall died in the same hospital after being shot in Northern Sangin.
Private Sephton was 20 years-old when he died, and a former Crosfields ARLFC junior. He was an influential part of the under 16s side that won the North West Counties League Championship in 2006, as well as reaching the semi finals of the BARLA National Cup in the same season.
Tom’s team mates have gone onto play at Super League and Championship level, while others have switched code and play for teams in Bath, New Zealand and France.
But it was this same group of friends that came up with the current Tom Sephton Memorial Match concept, with the first game taking place in September 2010.
The Tom Sephton Memorial Trophy is now contested annually between a Crosfields ARLFC Select XIII and an Armed Forces side.
On Saturday 30, June, Crosfields XIII will play against the Army Rugby League Corps champions, the Royal Engineers. The event is part of Armed Forces Day, which is being celebrated across the country.
As a curtain raiser to the main event, Tom’s old regiment, 1 Mercian will take on the 1st Battalion Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, 1 Lancs.
The day will start at 10:30am at Hood Lane Recreation Ground, Warrington, with plenty of activities provided by various Armed Forces troops before the two games kick off at 1pm and 3pm respectively. All monies raised will be donated to the SSAFA – Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association.
In September 2010 a Crosfields XIII consisting of Tom’s old team mates took on an Army Rugby League XIII. The Crosfields side hadn’t played together in four years, and trained for up to four weeks ahead of the match. The Army side consisted of players from all over the UK and Northern Ireland, Fiji, South Africa and Australia.
The day became an event thanks to the help of the Army who provided activities, which included a 60 foot assault course and paintballing range.
On the field Crosfields lost narrowly 32-30 despite running into a three try lead.
The following year Tom’s old regiment, 1 Mercian, went up against the Crosfields Select XIII. The events became much bigger with more volunteers and contributions from businesses, charities and the Armed Forces.
Crosfields Ladies team took on Warrington Ladies RL in the curtain raiser, before the main events.
The Crosfields Select XIII side ran away with the game before half time, but a strong Mercian comeback wasn’t enough as the home side were eventual winners in an emotional affair.
With representatives from the Army, Warrington Wolves, RFL, and the town’s MPs, the ground was packed with over 1,500 people attending on a sweltering hot summer’s day.
The third annual Tom Sephton Memorial Match promises to be even bigger, with Super League and Championship referee Matt Thomason taking control of the main game between Crosfields XIII and the Royal Engineers.
With only Catalan taking on Wakfield in France and London hosting Leeds on Saturday, rugby league supporters from all over are encouraged to spend the day at Crosfields in memory of a brave young man who loved his rugby league, and served his country.
The event will take place at Hood Lane Recreation Ground, Hood Lane, Warrington, WA5 1ET.
More information can be found at the Crosfields ARLFC website or @sephtontrophy on Twitter.
10:30 – Event begins with activities and stalls being held by the Armed Forces and volunteers raising money and awareness.
13:00 – 1 Mercian v 1 Lancs
15:15 – Crosfields XIII v Royal Engineers