Championship Focus: A common cause has brought Rugby League in Cumbria together

It has long been a pipedream of many to unite the Rugby League resources of West Cumbria.

But while it might not be for the often mooted Cumbrian Super League franchise, the entire sport in the area is coming together next weekend for a noble cause.

Players and officials from both Whitehaven and Workington Town, plus the region’s amateur clubs, referees society and even two rugby union clubs, will join forces to make a difference for mental health services in the county.

Former Haven and Town assistant Gary Hewer, who has also coached BARLA Great Britain and is now in charge at Egremont, has been one of the key figures behind the collaboration, alongside Frizington’s Ryan Dodgson.

Hewer explained: “The idea came about during lockdown, which is a time in which we know mental health is important for a lot of people.

“I started doing a 25 press-ups for 25 days challenge on social media. That grew and grew and I got a lot of personal messages from people all over the place during that time.

“Ryan had been raising funds for frontline workers and organising protective masks during the lockdown, and we came up with the idea of doing the Wainwright Five walks as a new challenge.

“We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and this would be a chance to see some of that and make a difference.

“We got in touch with Copeland Councillor Wammo Walmsley, who has links to West Cumberland Hospital, and right away he mentioned mental health and how saturated the need for help was locally.

“We were conscious that if we were going to raise some money we didn’t just want it to go into some big black hole, we wanted to make a difference for something.

“We spoke to the hospital and they were looking to create an area that people who were recovering from mental health issues could use.”

From there it was a matter of uniting the Rugby League community of West Cumbria, which Hewer and Dodgson had no difficulty in doing.

As a result a host of leading figures in the game will take part in the challenge, which takes place on Saturday July 11.

From Whitehaven, players Jesse Joe Parker, Karl Dixon, Connor Holliday, Jason Mossop, Glenn Riley, Sam Forrester and Ellis Gillam will be involved.

They will be joined by Workington’s Steve Scholey, Tom Kirwan, Carl Forber, Caine Barnes, Adam Ramsden and conditioner Matthew Johnston.

Amateur clubs Aspatria, Cockermouth, Distington, Ellenborough, Egremont, Frizington, Glasson, Hensingham, Kells, Lowca, Maryport, Seaton and Wath Brow will all have four representatives each there, alongside officials from the Cumbrian Amateur Rugby League.

They will be joined by members from the local referees’ society, rugby union clubs Whitehaven and St Benedict’s and hopefully State of Mind ambassadors Danny Sculthorpe and Phil Veivers, the latter another former Town coach.

Hewer added: “It’s been absolutely fantastic to see how quickly Rugby League in the area has pulled together so quickly.

“All rivalries have been put aside – it’s amazing how the rugby family pulls together through hard times.

“We’ve set a target of raising £10,000 and we think it can make a real difference in the area.

“The work the staff do on the Yewdale Ward at the hospital is tremendous, but due to government cuts and the inevitable rise in mental health due to the Covid-19 outbreak their services are understandably over-stretched.

“The suicide rate in our area is twice that of the national stats, so we would love nothing more than to raise heaps of money for this great ward and team of staff to help support and possibly save as many people as they possibly can.”

The walk has been planned by local physical training instructor Zoe Winter and takes in local beauty spots Dodd, Carlside, Longside, Unlock Pike and Skiddaw.

To donate to the cause you can visit: