It is with a heavy heart that I write this column as, unfortunately, it will be my last as it would appear that the axe of austerity has fallen in my direction and is calling an end to Farrell’s Forum.
It has been my pleasure and privilege to write about rugby league on these pages during the past few years, looking in detail at both the local and wider rugby league worlds.
Rugby league has provided me with many great opportunities and experiences throughout my life, and to be given a forum (some might say soapbox) to air my views on the game, after retiring from playing professionally has given me an awful lot of pleasure - not to mention one or two stressful and sleepless evening thanks to impending deadlines.
I’d like to think that I’ve cast a fair, balanced and informed eye over the game while writing my columns, and hope that I’ve also occasionally educated and entertained you, my readers, along the way too.
And it is you, the reader, who I would especially like to thank for continuing to read my column, but far more importantly for continuing to support rugby league in and around Scarborough.
To me rugby league is the greatest game of all.
A game of skill, athleticism and tactical intelligence, combined with no little courage and bravery.
It is a game of which I am passionate about and hope will grow and develop into the internationally recognised and acclaimed game which I believe it deserves to be.
In order to achieve that status though the game must first grow in outposts like Scarborough, and as I suggested a few weeks ago I do strongly believe that rugby (of both codes) has the potential to succeed soccer (association football for the purists) as the town’s number one sport.
There are a several people without whom the game in this area would probably cease to exist though, and it is those people who I feel, quite rightly, should have the last word as the curtain falls upon the final Farrell’s Forum.
Starting with the Godfather of junior rugby league in Scarborough, Nigel Mainprize, the Hull man who came to teach at Barrowcliff School over 20 years ago and firmly established the sport in the town’s primary schools (and consciousness) with the help of a band of dedicated rugby league enthusiasts including Graeme Gaunt, Martin Bottomley, Martin Flynn and Kevin Proctor.
Their excellent and selfless work was continued by the likes of Andy Payne, Shaun Millward and Chris Fleming, who dedicated their time to developing junior rugby league in the town through the 2000s, and who have now passed on the baton to the likes of Andy Lawley, Mark Burton, Nick Burgess and Keith Paddock.
Keith, another dedicated and self-sacrificing man devotes great chunks of his life to the development of rugby league in the town at all ages, and it’s a family affair for him as his wife Nicola is also heavily involved in the administration of game with the Yorkshire Coast Titans and Scarborough Pirates, as too is Janet Turnbull, another great servant to the game in this area.
A very special mention must go to Dave Marsden (pictured left), a man who is currently taking a well-earned break from rugby league after almost single-handedly administering Scarborough Pirates for many years, and who has devoted an inordinate amount of time to building links for the town with Super League champs Leeds Rhinos.
Much of Dave’s work for rugby league in the town has focused on securing sponsorship and funding, and as such has been behind the scenes. Such is Dave’s humility though, he has never sought the limelight, but thoroughly deserves some wider recognition, Scarborough Sports Awards Service to Sport award perhaps?
There is barely time to mention the likes of Kenny Oldroyd, the charismatic and tough former coach of the long-since defunct Scarborough All Blacks, and the enigma and gentleman that is Billy Blackburn – who I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing a speedy return to full health – they are two stalwarts and staunch supporters of the amateur game in this area and the types of people upon which the foundations of the amateur game are built.
And I also doff my cap to the army of volunteers, coaches and parents – especially my own – who have given themselves and their time to support, coach, and taxi each and every person who has played the game in the town, over the years. You have played a part, no matter how small, in developing the game of rugby league in this area and for that I thank you.
I apologise to anyone I have failed to mention by name, there are simply far too many to list (and the repeated hits to head during 23 years of rugby league have taken their toll on my already depleted grey matter, so my memory also fails me) but your work, time and effort is appreciated by many, many people.
Please keep giving to rugby league to continue helping the game to grow.
Once again thank you for reading. It has been a pleasure and an honour.
Thanks for reading