It wasn’t quite as brutal or spiteful as the first State of Origin fixture in Australia in 1980, when the likes of Arthur Beetson and Mick Cronin ignored their club friendship to launch a sporting phenomenon.
But the launch of the Origin concept for Physical Disability Rugby League in England will nevertheless be remembered as a seriously tough encounter which underlined how much representing Lancashire or Yorkshire meant to the players selected.
Yorkshire were ahead 16-14 when the game was brought to a premature end by a serious hip injury to Wakefield Trinity’s John Humphries, with the Lancashire duo of Barry Whalley (wrist) and Adam Hills (hamstring) also in the wars.
But for Shaun Briscoe, the former England full-back who last winter gave up his coaching role with the England Women set-up to take charge of the first England PDRL Community Lions, the day remained a huge success.
“Our first thoughts are with the injured players, and I’d also like to thank all those involved in ensuring they had the best possible treatment,” said Briscoe.
“But knowing the lads involved, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have any regrets. They’re tough, and brave, and I’m proud to be involved with all of them.
“It was such an important day for us in terms of developing the England PDRL programme.
“We wanted it to be a step up from the festival feel of the regular PDRL fixtures, so we had all the lads over for some team meetings early in the afternoon where we asked them to introduce themselves – there were some funny moments in that – and then we also spoke to them about what we’re expecting from England PDRL players.
“Then they broke off for their team meetings to get ready for the game – and there was plenty of intensity in the match, as anyone who was there will confirm.
So proud to play in the UK’s first ever @PDRLEngland Origin game yesterday, representing Lancashire v Yorkshire. Gutted that my hamstring took me out of the game after 20 mins. Congrats to all who took part, it was a huge step forward for Physical Disability Rugby League pic.twitter.com/rJunrSvZeo
— Adam Hills (@adamhillscomedy) August 16, 2021
“It was also important for us in terms of the new classifications which will apply in PDRL on the international stage going forward.”
Ben Seward’s brilliant individual score for Lancashire is in the running for the Our League Try of the Week award, with the St Helens Wembley hero Kyle Amor loving every minute on the Our League commentary team, and the Warrington North MP Charlotte Nichols among those to tweet her enthusiasm afterwards.
But for Marc Lovering, the RFL’s Director of Participation and Development, the launch of PDRL Origin was one of several reasons which made Sunday a significant day.
“As well as the PDRL Origin match, there was a Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League festival superbly hosted by the Warrington Wolves Foundation – one of two on the day, with Hull KR hosting an equivalent event at Hull College Craven Park.
“We’re lucky to have such excellent facilities available, with the Warrington event staged at Victoria Park – more tangible evidence of the benefit to the whole game of the CreatedBy funding that has been delivered by Sport England, RLWC2021 and the RFL.
“At Aldershot the previous day, we’d had the semi finals of the Betfred Women’s Super League South competition which was launched earlier this summer, with Cardiff Demons and The Army booking their places in the Final with victories over London Broncos and Golden Ferns respectively.
“It’s easy to take for granted at times, but it’s quite striking that when the last Rugby League World Cup was played in 2017, none of these things – Physical Disability Rugby League, Learning Disability Rugby League, the Women’s Super League, or the range of facilities at Victoria Park like so many other CreatedBy schemes – even existed.
“We were also able to expose these developments to a wider audience through coverage on Our League and Twitch, and it’s great to hear such respected figures from the professional game as Kyle Amor and Steve McCormack talking so enthusiastically and knowledgeably about these relatively new forms of our sport.
“Like the PDRL Origin fixture, the Demons-Broncos game was marred by a serious injury, and we send our best wishes to the Demons and Wales captain Shaunni Davies, as well as to John Humphries of Wakefield Trinity and Yorkshire PDRL.”