Rugby League stepped in to the future whilst acknowledging the importance of its glorious past today at the launch of the Founders Walk, a venture that aims to raise £120,000 in celebration of the sport’s 120th anniversary.
The Founders Walk takes place over six days from Sunday July 19 to July 24 and takes in the 22 original home stadiums of the 22 clubs that founded the Northern Union on August 29, 1895.
To launch an initiative that will give clubs and individuals the opportunity to raise valuable funds for good causes, RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood walked the 1.20 miles from Fartown, the original home of Huddersfield Giants, down to the George Hotel in Huddersfield, the venue for the momentous meeting of breakaway clubs 120 years ago.
He was joined by a host of special guests including two members of the Rugby League Hall of Fame, Alex Murphy OBE and Garry Schofield OBE, Huddersfield Giants chairman Ken Davy and the club’s Managing Director Richard Thewlis, former Halifax and St Helens forward Adam Fogerty and representatives from a host of clubs.
RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood said: “Rugby League has a great heritage and tradition and in this, our 120th year, the Founders Walk is a terrific opportunity for the sport to come together and raise as much money as it can for worthy causes.
“Listening to Alex, Garry and Adam on the way down from Fartown was really entertaining and underlined how great it is to spend time with Rugby League people on initiatives like this.
“The sport should be very proud of its ability to rally round and do the right thing and the Founders Walk enables the whole Rugby League family to do just that.
“It’s an important anniversary and I hope as many people as possible engage with the walk to celebrate a special birthday and a very special sport.”
Alex Murphy OBE said: “The game means everything to me and I’m looking forward to putting my boots on and joining in the Founders Walk when it passes through St Helens next month.
“I think it’s wonderful that we are now celebrating our history in the proper way and I would urge everyone to make some time to take part in the walk.”
Whilst a far cry from the stadium that once hosted two Challenge Cup finals and a crowd of 35,000 for a Challenge Cup semi-final in 1947, Fartown still hosts regular Rugby League action as the home of Huddersfield community club St Joseph’s. The Founders Walk visits Fartown on Day Two.
The Founders Walk takes place over six days but fans can sign up to walk as far as they like on any or all of the route, with each of the days split into smaller stages.
Day One (Sunday July 19) is an eight-mile stroll around Hull, starting from the Walton Street car park and taking in The Boulevard before ending at the KC Stadium.
Day Two (Monday July 20) starts at Fartown in Huddersfield and passes through Brighouse, Batley and Dewsbury before reaching Wakefield Trinity at the end of the 20-mile stage.
Day Three (Tuesday July 21) covers 24.5 miles between Hunslet and Halifax, taking in Headingley, Manningham, Bradford Park Avenue and Illingworth on the way.
Day Four (Wednesday July 22) is 22 miles starting at Rochdale and ending at Edgeley Park via Oldham.
Day Five (Thursday July 23) is when weary legs will be tested over 22.5 miles between Wheater Street in Broughton and the DW Stadium in Wigan.
Day Six (Friday July 24) sees the walk conclude with a 23-mile stage between Fletcher Street in Warrington and Langtree Park in St Helens.
The Northern Union’s 22 founding clubs were Batley, Bradford, Brighouse, Broughton, Halifax, Huddersfield, Hull FC, Hunslet, Leeds, Leigh, Liversedge, Manningham, Oldham, Rochdale, Runcorn, St Helens, Stockport, Tyldesley, Wakefield Trinity, Warrington, Widnes and Wigan. Four clubs still play in, or on the site of, the stadium used in the first Northern Union season of 1895: Batley, Leeds, Wakefield and Widnes.
The Founders Walk will take place in association with the sport's charity Rugby League Cares and is one of a series of events and activities taking place in 2015 to celebrate Rugby League’s 120th anniversary. Other activities include the installation of a blue plaque at the grounds of each of the 22 founding clubs; the unveiling of a statue at Wembley Stadium on the day of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final, Saturday August 29; and the induction of two more of the sport’s all-time greats into the Rugby League Hall of Fame.
For more details of the route or to register for the Founders Walk please visit www.rugbyleaguecares.org/founders_walk_2015