Well… what a year Cumbria’s rugby league teams have had!
It has been thoroughly enjoyable watching Cumbria’s sport be brought back to prominence in the local area.
We've seen Whitehaven get so close to the heavy heights of the Super League and amateur stalwarts Wath Brow Hornets and Kells coming up just short in the NCL (National Conference League) finals. As well as Workington Town and Barrow Raiders making the big step up to the Championship, joining Whitehaven, and giving neutrals like me 6 Cumbrian derbies as an eye-watering prospect to look forward to next season.
Behind the scenes, one of Cumbria’s finest rugby league exports, Kyle Amor, also picked up yet another Super League Play-Offs victory with St Helens.
Despite all this, Rugby league stories often seem to still fly under the radar. For example, did you know that Whitehaven have joined up with Super League side Hull FC to create a new Cumbrian centre of excellence to improve the pathway for talented west Cumbrian players to reach the top flight?
Neither did I, but how exciting is that?
You have to agree with me… when you see a Cumbrian on TV, you want to root for them more than anybody else, right?
This just shows how positive the future looks for rugby league in Cumbria.
We have had 3 teams in rugby league’s second division since 2014 and with Whitehaven carrying momentum from last season’s play-off charge - even if they have lost key players such as Louis Jouffret and Lachlan Walmsley - and Workington and Barrow wanting to establish themselves properly in the Championship, this will be an exhilarating season of Rugby League, and I know I’ve already mentioned it but…
6 CUMBRIAN DERBIES!
And let’s not forget about the amateur leagues. The NCL Premier Division has 3 Cumbrian teams fighting for the right to be named as the top amateur rugby league side in the country.
These teams are Kells, Wath Brow Hornets and Egremont Rangers.
From personal experience, I know that Wath Brow are popular in my hometown.
Just last weekend, they took 5 buses full of fans down to Featherstone on a cold Saturday afternoon to watch the Brow play in the NCL final.
Unfortunately they lost, but just think about that!
250 fans for an away game!
As a county, it's clear we adore rugby league, and from where I'm sitting, it proves that Cumbrian rugby league is well and truly back in business!