Over 250 attendees joined forces on Saturday evening as Headingley Carnegie Stadium hosted Leeds Rugby Foundation’s annual City Of Leeds Rugby League Celebration Dinner.
Leeds Rugby Foundation honoured rugby league played throughout Leeds in 2012 with many awards handed out to worthy winners including the prestigious John Holmes Award which was sponsored by Berry's Jewellers.
The John Holmes award recognises an individual who has gone over and above the call of duty to make an exceptional contribution to their organisation. This year’s worthy winner was Brian Sowden from Stanningley ARLFC who has been involved in rugby league for over 30 years.
When Brian and his team arrived at Stanningley ARLFC it was in dire financial difficulties and he was immediately elected as treasurer due to working in an accounts department at a local company. For several years Brian took on roles both as coach and treasurer until relinquishing his coaching role to concentrate on the financial side of the club. Brian has worked tirelessly for around 5 years on the club’s application for funding from Sport England for new facilities and was rewarded with nearly £1m to build their current premises which opened in 2001. Brian retired from work in 2008 and since then he has continued to put many hours in to the club. Congratulations to Brian Sowden!
Colin Cooper picked up the well-deserved Life-time Achievement Award. Colin started playing rugby back in 1943 before signing professional with Hunslet RL in 1950. Colin also played Rugby in the Army while doing National service, gaining top honours playing for BARLA Great Britain U21’s and the GB Army Rugby League team. After retiring from playing he then became the RFL Referee Assessor for the next 10 years.
Colin’s most greatest achievement is arguably the long running tradition of producing some of the greatest players of all time including Gary Schofield and Jason Robinson. Many other professional and amateur players came from his Hunslet club – David Creaser, Mick Coyle, George Raynor, Sonny Nichol, Karl Pratt, Sam Burgess and James Lowes, but to name a few. Very well done to Colin Cooper!
As well as these two awards, all strands of the sport were represented from children starting off playing the game at primary schools and community clubs through to Leeds Rhinos first team players. It was an opportunity to acknowledge the important and hard work done at grassroots level throughout Leeds and without the commitment of these inspirational people the game of rugby league would not be where it is today.
The evening also included a talk by Gary Hetherington, chief executive of Leeds Rugby, followed by him interviewing Brian McDermott, head coach at Leeds Rhinos and a selective number of Rhinos first team players.
Leeds Rugby Foundation’s Sam Horner who made the night possible, commented: " This truly was a ‘people’s night’. It is vital we support all areas of rugby league development in the City and the generous contributions raised on Saturday will help Leeds Rugby Foundation continue to help change lives through sport,” he said.
“On behalf of Leeds Rugby Foundation, I would like to pay thanks to everyone who attended including sponsors Berry’s Jewellers, T.W. Steel, Leeds Rhinos Players Association and AB Print Group Ltd,” he continued.
“Thanks also must go to all the community clubs, supporter clubs, schools, societies and trustees for making it a night to remember.”