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Laisterdyke Leadership Academy wins first friendly with eyes set on the Yorkshire Plate

Boys from an academy in Bradford who had never played rugby before won a friendly match last month and have their eyes set on the Yorkshire Plate, Rugby Football League’s Championship Schools Competition.

Playing against a team from an academy in Lancashire in January, boys from Year 9 representing Laisterdyke Leadership Academy won a friendly match, 20 – 8.

These boys are in a unique position as British Asian, African, Caribbean, and Eastern European pupils who six months ago had not touched a rugby ball let alone been on a rugby field of play.

The match against Colne Primet Academy was the first time the Laisterdyke pupils played a full-contact match at the Bradford Bulls stadium.

The boys won their first friendly against a team in Lancashire 20-8.

They will be setting another historic precedent with their next competitive match in the knock-out regional rounds of the Yorkshire Plate, Rugby Football League’s Championship Schools Competition.

School teams who make it through the regional and national stages of the competition are set to play the finals at the prestigious Warrington Wolves’ professional ground, Victoria Park.

The story of their recent success is one that has been four years in the making. It started with Community Cougars Foundation (CCF) delivering after-school rugby league training sessions at Laisterdyke Leadership Academy, with support from Bradford Bulls Foundation.

For many of these young pupils, they initially had little desire to be active or play any type of team sports. However, the enthusiasm they have shown for the game has been infectious: raising the hopes and ambitions of other young boys and girls, in Bradford and Keighley, where CCF deliver after-school programmes to improve the health and well-being of young people as well as prepare them to be responsible community citizens.

The boys on the team had never played a contact sport until six months prior.

That is, by teaching them life skills such as how to communicate with each other respectfully, to be effective listeners and, also, how to be trustworthy teammates that show up on the pitch, to training, and when needed, as student peers and good friends. CCF also work in close partnership with others to make opportunities possible for young people.

For example, working with the Bradford Bulls Foundation and the national governing body, the Rugby Football League, to also address their Tackle It campaign which challenges racial discrimination and foster community cohesion, inclusion, and empowerment.

The skills and talent on display at the match against Colne Primet Academy proved that with continued effort and training, many of those on the team could continue playing at semi-professional or professional levels of the game.

In previous years, through CCF links, many of the British Asian, African, Caribbean, and Eastern European boys and girls, have joined club-sides.

They are looking forward to playing their first competitive match next week.

Others also eager to continue playing a sport they have come to enjoy, have been introduced to local amateur teams, for example, Dudley Hill, to continue to play recreationally.

Thus, the pipeline from inactivity to potentially elite levels of participation represents a success story in the making.

Other key partners include local Headteachers, who allow CFF to deliver their after-school programmes in trusted and safe school-based environments.

CCF and Bradford Bulls Foundation cannot do their work without the support of partners and parents, and in the case of the Laisterdyke Leadership Academy Year 9 rugby team, pupils, parents/guardians, and school staff members.

A representative of CCF said, “We were really excited and impressed with the pupils representing Laisterdyke Leadership Academy. The boys hadn’t played rugby league, and this was the first time playing a full-contact match. They just did amazing, they did the school proud, they did themselves proud, and they did us proud.

The boys from Laisterdyke Leadership Academy will play their next match against  Farnley Academy School next Thursday on 17 February at the Bradford Bulls home ground.

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