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puts the focus back on those at Red Hall responsible for generating commercial income, that we need the big sponsorships in at the top and the little ones locally that make all the difference. We did get a lot of Sport England money last time. Has it been squandered? Definitely not. Have we got value from it? Probably not.

“The mood at headquarters is understandably mixed and sombre given that there are redundancies, but in general people do actually understand what we are trying to deliver going forward. The changes are right but livelihoods are affected and it is an emotional time.

“Once the process is completed the sport will move on and the job get done; this is a short-term hiatus that companies go

North Herts secretary MICK JOHAL on a success story in England’s south east

Good value: There are concerns that the excellent national development work embarked upon could be hit hard by the cash shortfall through. There is outside confidence in the senior management, otherwise the monies would not have been forthcoming. They have been convincing and a number of staff have been involved and contributed to the current plan, so already there is an element of buy-in.

“To be fair, the announcement from Sport England arrived on 17 December and staff were notified officially of the new structure and their likely position within it or whether they were at risk within four days. To take on board all those changes and implications, give some reassurances and work that quickly is quite commendable.”

Cup winners: North Hertfordshire Crusaders celebrate their success as East of England champions

Herts and minds

Last year was a landmark one for us at North Hertfordshire Crusaders. We crowned it by being named ‘Best Newcomer Club’ in the 2012 Herts Sports Awards at an invitation-only ceremony at the Weston Auditorium, University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield.

It recognised our feat of setting up a club from scratch and finishing our first year as East of England champions. That showed that we have great people involved and have captured the imagination of local people. The award followed on from coach Colin Baker being named ‘London and South East Coach of the Year’.

Our club is based in Letchworth Garden City, hardly a hot bed of rugby league. The area has many union clubs and, as has been seen in so many places, the move of the 13a-side game to summer meant that we were an attraction for their players and fans.

Crusaders was founded by Letchworth RU members including, James Tirrell, Liam Corcoran, Robin French and myself; we are the backbone of the committee. We were looking for ways to increase participation in sport in the area and utilise the facilities during the summer months.

Rugby league was the obvious option as we are huge fans. Darren Pugsley, the development officer for the area, introduced us to Colin who is a level 4 coach and, luckily for us, lives locally. He comes with a lot of top level experience having previously been on the staff at London Broncos.

In February 2012 James initially suggested the idea and it seemed a perfect fit. Liam and Robin had experience of the sport and having often spoken about starting a team in the past were recruited. A plan of action was put in place.

A totally independent club was created, attracting players from across the region and we were placed in the Tier 4 East League, along with St Ives Roosters, Bury Titans, Kings Lynn Black Knights, Bedford Tigers and Milton Keynes Wolves.

We registered 67 senior players and managed to put out a second team on a number of occasions, finished joint top of the league and went on to win the East of England Grand Final in style against the Roosters, running out 63-30 winners at Bedford’s home ground Putnoe Woods.

Now plans are in place to build on our success and for the 2013 season we will be introducing an U16s side and a second team that will play every week. We are taking it one step at a time and hope eventually to have in place a full complement of mini and junior teams in the colours.

We are also sending two of our players on coaching courses so that we have the necessary infrastructure. We have already received some funding for setting up and running the junior side and will also be looking to take rugby league into local schools.

We’re still on the look-out for sponsors and always need more volunteers. Our priorities now are to deliver best quality coaching to players who may or may not have played before and hopefully push on in the coming years in higher leagues.

Mick Johal

January 2013 Forty-20 37

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