Gethin Jones 28 yrs old presenter of the BBC ‘s long running children’s television show Blue Peter turned out for the Mark Norris Building Services North West Counties League Premier Division St Helens side Blackbrook in their home first round tie of the HALBRO Lancashire Cup. It was part of a series of challenges in sport for the presenter to take part in which are to be shown at the beginning of next year.
The Welshmen born in Cardiff had previously played rugby union whilst at University in Manchester and tried league there at a non competitive level.
Gethin had trained with the squad at Blackbrook on Thursday evening and came through with flying colours and on the way picked up some advice and tips from St Helens forward Jon Wilkin who this week was named in the Great Britain squad for the Gillette Tri Nations down under next month.
Gethin named in the match programme at number 17 came on as substitute in the first half wearing the number 14 shirt and almost scored with his first touch of the ball in the corner as he started on the wing. He later made a break down the middle to set up a sixty meter try for Tommy Cunningham. He also played in the full back position and was the instigator of another try and showed some skilful touches as well as kicking three second half goal as Blackbrook ran out 64-6 winners against Heysham Atoms.
Attending the game was Great Britain Community Lions Head Coach Jimmy Taylor who at it’s conclusion was asked to guess which player was the Blue Peter presenter and Gethin came out in flying colours as Taylor identified another player as the presenter.
Blackbrook coach Mark Lee explained haw the idea came about and assessed Gethin’s performance, “The BBC got hold of the Rugby Football League who passed them onto BARLA and they recommended Blackbrook as one of the leading teams with the facilities so it was quite nice that they held us in that esteem.
“I thought he played really well, he showed some nice touches and he has got great footwork. He had a great game and in open play he was sensational especially when he stepped through the middle and put Tommy Cunningham through on a ‘two on one’ with the full back.”
During the game Jon Wilkin who was at the cup tie with Saints team-mates James Roby and Matty Smith, was in the Blackbrook dugout passing on instructions to Gethin and after the game he thought he had played well.
“I think that Blue Peter have unearthed a new talent, I think that he has done very well this afternoon for Blackbrook and it was a good result for them. He nearly scored with his first touch and then made a clean break to set up a try. For a television presenter whose not played rugby league competitively it was outstanding and he really relished doing stuff like this.”
Jon agreed that it was a massive coup for Blackbrook and the amateur game, “Yeah that’s it, it’s a massive coup for the club here at Blackbrook and I think they will
get a lot of coverage from this and I’ve spoken to Geth personally. He as sort of amazed really by the camaraderie of the lads and I think it will do amateur rugby league a good turn by him being part of this.”
Jimmy Taylor admitted that he had got it wrong picking out the wrong presenter,
“Yes I got it wrong I focussed on the lad I picked to much and didn’t look elsewhere, I thought the presenter would have been on from the start rather than come off the bench, so I wasn’t taking much notice who was coming off the bench.
“When Gethin came on as substitute I don’t think he did to much wrong.” Final words to Gethin,
“I have never played a competitive game of rugby league before. I’m a union boy born and bread in Cardiff and you don’t get much choice down there, I understand the game of rugby union and what’s been interesting over the last couple of days is to see how different the two games are.
“I was alligator hunting in America earlier this year for the show and I can’t work out what is worse running at some of those boys today or challenging an alligator. Blue Peter is a very varied show and we have many challenges on the show. I never pick them and this one was rugby league. We are going to do a feature of me taking on different sports and the production team knew I had played rugby union before not league.
“There is a big team at Blue Peter and they are absolutely incredible at coming up with new creative ideas all the time. I don’t think many amateur teams with respect would have been able to accommodate the filming like Blackbrook have today. We had five camera’s out there, we have been bothering them for the last three days asking lots from them and yet they were able to put out a great side today and give a brilliant performance
“The Blue Peter production team thought it would be a good challenge and a challenge at a good level which Blackbrook was. I loved it, the preparation, training, mental aspect, eating right, and the game today. I’m just really pleased Blackbrook won convincingly and they move onto the second round of the cup and I wish them all the very best for the rest of the season.
“I trained all week at half back and was then thrown on, on the wing and then moved to full back. I don’t think I missed a tackle or dropped the ball, statistically wise I think I did okay and enjoyed it. I took a few bashes which I will remember as long as I remember the game and the most important thing in sport is winning and that’s what we did today.
“At the end of the game the head coach watching the game chose someone else as the presenter of Blue Peter playing for Blackbrook and it wasn’t a set up. He thought I was a rugby league player and that was the whole point of the Blue Peter challenge and I’m delighted that I’ve passed it in the eyes of a professional.”
“If I’m ever up here again I’ll be coming along for a training session.”