Rugby League: Amateurs to give much-needed tonic

WHAT COULD be deemed to be the start of the Millennium season arrives this weekend with the first round of the Silk Cut Challenge Cup.

To a game in need of a tonic, the array of amateur sides starting out on the road to Murrayfield - where the 2000 final will be staged - comes as a refreshing sight. Shrinkage might have set in at professional level, but there is still an expansionist mood detectable in the ranks beneath.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the presence of all three branches of the armed services in the draw. The RAF play Normanton Knights and the Army face a Dewsbury Celtic side spearheaded by a Tuigamala, Andrew, younger brother of Va'aiga. Best of all, there is the Royal Navy's appearance at Hull Dockers. The burgeoning student game is represented by John Moores University, at home to New Earswick All Blacks.

The host city on 29 April gets an early taste of the competition with the local side, the Edinburgh Eagles, at home to Woolston, while tomorrow the Dublin Blues face Farnworth ROB. But a tie with even more resonance sees two areas deserted by the professional game face each other when the Durham Tigers meet the Cardiff Cougars. At amateur level, at least, the code is not yet an endangered species in those outposts.

Equally timely is Sheffield Hillsborough Hawks' trip to York Acorn. The Hawks' coach is Mark Aston, the former Sheffield Eagles captain, who is trying to set up a new professional club in the city following the Eagles' merger with Huddersfield.

The St Helens forward, Vila Matautia, became the sixth player from the Super League Grand Final winners to undergo close-season surgery. Matautia, who played for America in the recent Lincoln World Cup qualifying tournament, has undergone a minor knee operation but is expected to be fit for the Boxing Day clash against Wigan. Other Saints players recovering from surgery are Kevin Iro, Paul Atcheson, Paul Newlove, Anthony Sullivan and Keiron Cunningham.

Oldham's coach, Mike Ford, today completed his 12th signing of the close season when the full-back Mark Sibson agreed a two-year contract. The 23-year-old student international scored 14 tries and 49 goals for Bramley last term before ending the year on loan to Huddersfield.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Extras
indybest
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Content Manager

£26000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Content Manager is re...

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee