National Conference League opening weekend success

12 Mar 22, 7:45AM 0 Comments

Written by Rugby Football League

Photo by RFL

Trevor Hunt, the Chair of the National Conference League, has congratulated all involved in an opening weekend which was as encouraging as it was successful.

Like all areas of the game, the NCL has endured unprecedented challenges over the last two years as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But last weekend, helped by some spring sunshine, there was a real feel of rebirth for the competition.

“After two years of uncertainty it was great to get games back on properly,” said Trevor, who made the long journey north-west to watch Seaton Rangers in their impressive NCL debut against Eastmoor Dragons – in front of a crowd estimated at over 500.

“There was so much enthusiasm amongst players and staff, and it was a real boost to see amateur Rugby League back to normal.

“Everyone is aware of the issues we’ve faced throughout the pandemic, and it was fantastic to see such high-level Rugby League back on show once again.”

The opening rounds of the Betfred Challenge Cup had already provided a reminder of the quality of the NCL and other parts of the community game. “Each year the NCL clubs acquit themselves well against the League One and even Championship sides, and this year has been no exception,” Trevor added.

“Myself and regular followers of the NCL know the quality and skills that are on offer from the clubs and players each week, and the coverage of more games than ever in the Challenge Cup early rounds – on Our League, The Sportsman and BBC Sport – is showing that to a wider audience.”

In what is a huge year for Rugby League across all levels, Hunt is looking ahead with great enthusiasm for what’s in store for the Community Game.

“Like everyone connected with the NCL I am excited about the 2022 season,” he said.

“We have Rhino and O’Neills on board as Ball and Sportswear partners respectively, we’re trialling head cams on referees, and actively seeking a way to get NCL games streamed or televised.

“We also have 48 clubs doing everything so that they can not only have a successful NCL team, but to build a sustainable club that will develop a steady flow of talent through to all levels of Rugby League.

“For the season, I hope all of our initiatives prove a success, and that we can attract a title sponsor – but above all, I am hoping for a competitive season that is able to reach its conclusion without any disruption through matters that we cannot control after such a tough couple of years. There’s so, so much to be excited about.”

The competition rolls on this weekend when the six teams whose opening fixtures were postponed because of the some lingering wintry weather in Yorkshire – Featherstone Lions, Kells, Myton Warriors, Saddleworth Rangers, Heworth and Dewsbury Moor – will be especially keen to get going.

Kells are at home to West Bowling, who will be buoyed by their opening win against Stanningley, in Division One – with Featherstone Lions making the short trip to an Oulton Raiders team who opened with a win at Milford.

Saddleworth Rangers are at home to Skirlaugh – who pipped their local rivals Hull Dockers 10-8 – and Myton go to Stanningley.

In Division Two, Heworth go to Dudley Hill, and Dewsbury Moor host Crosfields.

Seaton have a Cumbrian derby against Hensingham in their first away game, while Bentley – the other NCL newcomers for 2022, who also won their home opener, against Hensingham – travel up the M1 to Shaw Cross Sharks.

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