The rugby league community is a charitable one, it is close-knit and those within it, while being rivals on the field, have demonstrated on numerous occasions that they are allies off it and pull together in times of need.
Nowhere was this more apparent than late last week as Widnes Vikings’ Chairman Steve O’Connor donated £10,000 of his own cash to Bradford Bulls’ ‘Quest for Survival’.
This act of altruism epitomises the spirit within the game of rugby league, and is evidenced further by several former Bulls players donating a host of sporting memorabilia, including representative shirts, to be auctioned off tonight to raise funds for the stricken club.
Brian McDermott, Jamie Peacock, Leon Price and Stuart Fielden have all gone one step further though. In an incredible act of selflessness, they have donated between them three Grand Final winners’ rings and a Challenge Cup final winners’ medal to be auctioned at tonight’s event.
Most players never even have the opportunity to play in a Grand Final or Challenge Cup final, let alone to win one; so to be prepared to sacrifice the token of your success, the physical embodiment of your efforts on the field throughout the season, speaks volumes about the character of the players donating such items. Each deserves a massive amount of respect for doing so.
Challenge Cup final and Grand Final success does not come cheaply though and each of those items, together with the playing shirt worn during the match in which it was won has a reserve price of £10,000.
But the fact that those players are willing to part with such items shows the strength of what Bradford Bulls as a club means to those players, the wider rugby league community, and the game itself.
The Bulls have currently raised around £250,000 towards their £500,000 target for tomorrow. But with tonight’s auction and tomorrow’s massive derby at home to Leeds Rhinos, where a huge crowd is expected, the Bulls may well be able to keep the wolves of administration from the door.
To further acts of fundraising now; regular readers of this column will know about Steve Prescott MBE, the former Saints, Hull FC and Wakefield player, who contracted an extremely rare form of terminal cancer in 2006 and was given just months to live.
Since this time Steve set up the Steve Prescott Foundation and has embarked upon one monumental challenge after another to raise money for Try Assist, formerly the Rugby League Benevolent Fund and The Christie Cancer Hospital in Manchester, where Steve receives treatment for his illness.
Steve and his good friend, rugby league great, Paul Sculthorpe, are currently in training for an epic physical challenge that begins on Sunday April 15 at the Paris Marathon and finishes a week later at the London Marathon.
En route from Paris to London ‘Prekkie’ and ‘Scully’ will cycle over 250 miles and cross the Channel via kayak in a punishing eight-day challenge.
The Steve Prescott Foundation is particularly close to my heart as Steve is a former team mate and a thoroughly great human being, his efforts deserve your support.
Please visit www.justgiving.com/Steve-Scully if you would like to make a donation to this incredibly worthy cause.
Continuing with the theme of giving I’d like to congratulate Scarborough Pirates for completing their ‘Barrel Carry’ challenge in aid of Ellie’s Fund on Sunday.
The sun shone on a fantastic event which was heralded as a great success. I’m unable to bring you a total figure raised by the event as sponsor money is still being collected but it’s estimated that several hundred pounds was raised by their efforts.
The Pirates’ season commences on May 12 at home to Hillsborough and preparations for the forthcoming season have now stepped up as training has moved back to their regular base at Eastway.
Anyone is welcome to attend training at 6.30pm on Wednesdays, as the Pirates are always on the look-out for new talent.
I’ll bring you an in-depth preview of the Pirates’ season prior to their big kick-off in a few weeks.
Today’s column has been all about charity in one form or another and I make no apologies for that.
One of rugby league’s strengths is its ability to bring people together for a common cause and it has always looked after its own people in times of need. Rugby league is the community game. It is a proud game. And to be able to comment on the stories of philanthropy and self-sacrifice above makes me very proud to be associated with the greatest game of all.