Pennine Trophies
Wednesday February 28th 2007 < Back Print Page
Amazing Village Turnaround Thanks To RL
Seaton Rangers, perhaps best known for their exploits at open age level in recent years in lifting the John Smith’s Cumberland League championship and making serious inroads in a variety of cup competitions, appear poised to make an even bigger impact at youth and junior level.

The club’s youth section, from a standing start five or six months ago, has grown at incredible speed and teams have already been launched from Under 8s to Under 14s, with an Under 16s side set to run from September.

It’s progress that borders on the meteoric and, heart-warmingly, the initiative has impacted beyond the confines of sport in the historic village on the outskirts of Workington.

The Rugby Youth club - an old village hall converted by volunteers headed by Paul Hodgson, Geoff Symes and Mike Thompson - will be officially opened on Friday March 9 and has already become a focal point in the area.

Symes, Hodgson, Thompson and the rest of an 11-strong committee are also proud to have raised around £20,000 with the help of players, parents and sponsorships. Grants have been secured from Awards For All, the Neighbourhood Forum, the Allerdale Community Fund and the Co-op, plus donations from local firms such as Chorus, Babcocks, BNFL, and Alcan. The National Lottery Big Boost Fund, meanwhile, has met the cost of turning an old field into a training/playing pitch where sessions are conducted by several former Seaton players including Stephen Ostle, John Banks and Stephen McMullen (Under 8s and Under 9s), Paul Sloan and Peter Gilmour (Under 11s), Mark Rooke and Shaun Walker (Under 12s), Symes (Under 14s) and Hodgson (Under 16s).

Hymes said: "All the kids have been supplied with shoulder pads, skull caps and gum shields and free tracksuits - sponsored by Stephen Ostle Joiners, Sinclairs Jewellers, Top to Toe Beauticians, Dobies’ Cars, Nigel Church Security, J Burrows Roofing and AA Carpets - with all the strips sponsored by local firm West Coast Thermal. And we have staged several well-supported fund raising events, including a sponsored walk in Halloween fancy dress and a Xmas Fayre with a visit from Santa Claus."

It’s excellent progress in such a short period of time and the key to that perhaps lies in Symes’ explanation of what motivates the committee. He said: "Our aim from the outset was to get kids off the street and give them a sense of pride, representing their village in a worthwhile manner.

"Signing on nights were held in October and the response was magnificent with over 80 kids aged from 6-16 registering to play rugby league. They and their parents were told about the Rugby Football League’s RESPECT campaign, and that message has been fortified throughout the village with the help of the parish council, shop owners and the police."

The positive response was highlighted recently by an invitation to older residents to get along to a `tattie-pot’ supper and bingo night in Seaton’s old clubhouse, when they were waited on by Under 14s players.

Said Hodgson: "We’ve got a real family feel going and it was a fantastic event. We’ve given local kids the chance to show that they can be trusted and they’ve repaid us handsomely. The old folk have realised that not all youngsters are trouble causers by any means, while the players have seen their elders’ points of view.

"There hasn’t been one single incidence of trouble in the village since we launched the youth section. We’re very proud of that."

Members of the Under 16s squad emulated their younger club mates by visiting the children’s ward at Whitehaven hospital, supplying all the kids with selection boxes as a goodwill gesture. In return, the youngsters are being give the chance to play rugby league, with added `treats’ such as a trip to the Wigan v St Helens Super League game in April, when 150 kids will be ferried down the M6. Symes said: "The RESPECT campaign seems to have pulled the area together and has had a dramatic effect in reducing the antisocial behaviour which was threatening to overrun the village. The future of rugby league has never looked so good at Seaton."

Phil Hodgson –League Weekly
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