Parliamentary Rugby League Group celebrates annual dinner
The All-Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group held its annual dinner in the Palace of Westminster last night.
The dinner brought together Members of both Houses of Parliament, Honorary Members, Associate Members, Group supporters and sponsors OAK Underwriting and the RFL.
Now in its 27th year, the Group is one of the most active in Parliament, and comprises 70 Members from both Houses across all parties. The Group had another very busy year in spite of the general election in May, hearing from Associate Members Hull KR, Hong Kong Rugby League and Leeds Rhinos, as well as RLIF Chief Executive Dr David Collier, and others. Leeds North West MP and Group Chairman, Greg Mulholland, laid a wreath at the cenotaph as part of the annual ceremony on the eve of the Challenge Cup Final in August, whilst in October the Group held a reception in Parliament in conjunction with the ondon Rugby League Foundation, to celebrate the game in and around the capital. Between public activities, the Group continued to work to support the game across Westminster and Whitehall.
The dinner was hosted by Group President Lord Hoyle. He welcomed those attending, and commented “it has been another busy year for the Parliamentary Rugby League Group. The Group continues to support the game at all levels, and campaigns to ensure it receives the recognition it deserves.”
After a flying visit from Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, Greg Mulholland paid tribute to the Group’s hard work over the past year. He noted a number of Members stood down at the general election, particularly former Officers James Clappison and Gerry Sutcliffe, but that the Group had successfully expanded its ranks since, with a raft of new Members joining.
The Group also welcomed a range of new Associate Members, who continue to provide a critical insight into the challenges the game faces at all levels. Mulholland thanked all Associate Members for their support, and paid tribute to OAK Underwriting and the RFL, “without whose assistance, the Group would not be able to deliver its aims and continue to challenge the issues surrounding rugby league.”
Throughout the night, attendees were encouraged to visit part of the Rugby League Cares heritage exhibition, and take part in a raffle to win a limited edition 120th anniversary commemorative ball. By the end of the evening, the Group was able to present Rugby League Cares with a donation of over over £900.
The highlight of the evening was the Group awards. The Group’s 2015 Super League Player of the Year award was presented to Leeds Rhinos’ Kevin Sinfield, who captained his side to win the Challenge Cup, League Leaders Shield and Super League in his final year with the club. Sinfield kicked 105 goals and scored 3 tries in 24 Super League appearances this season, retiring from the sport having won seven Super League Championships and two Challenge Cups, and as the highest points-scorer in Super League history.
The Geoff Lofthouse Award, named after one of the late founders and long-standing Chairman of the Group, was made to another stalwart of the game and retiring Leeds Rhinos player Jamie Peacock MBE. Peacock started his professional career at Bradford before moving to Leeds Rhinos in 2006, winning a total of twelve Super League Championships, four Challenge Cups and four World Club Championships over a career spanning 17 years. A winner of the Man of Steel Award in 2003, Peacock went on to be named in the Super League Dream Team a record eleven times, underlining the consistency with which he performed throughout his career.
Gerry Sutcliffe received the Group’s Outstanding Service Award, presented for services to rugby league and the Parliamentary Rugby League Group on an ad hoc basis to Members or former Members of the Group. Sutcliffe was the Group’s Secretary before standing down in the 2015 General Election, and also served as Sports Minister between 2007 and 2010.
The Group also announced three new Honorary Life Members: Ian Proctor, Sky Sports’ long-serving statistician; Nigel Wood, RFL Chief Executive; and Sarah Williams MBE, former RFL Equality & Diversity Manager. They join a small group of Honorary Life Members, who are all well known for their longstanding and high profile service to the sport.