The RFL is delighted to announce that Lizzie Jones will sing the traditional Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final hymn, Abide With Me prior to kick-off at Wembley Stadium on Saturday August 29.
Lizzie, the wife of former Keighley Cougars and Wales international Danny Jones, is a professional singer who wants to use the occasion to thank the Rugby League family for their heartfelt support since her husband's tragic death in May.
Danny died from undiagnosed hereditary heart disease after collapsing during a match against London Skolars, leaving behind Lizzie and their twins Bobby and Phoebe, who are now eight months old.
Since then Rugby League fans, players, administrators and the wider public have donated over £230,000 to a trust fund set up by the RFL Benevolent Fund to secure the futures of Danny and Lizzie's children.
Her performance ahead of the final between Hull Kingston Rovers and Leeds Rhinos will see Lizzie follow in the footsteps of Danny, who represented Wales at the national stadium in a Four Nations fixture in 2011.
Lizzie Jones said: “It’s fantastic for me, I’m so excited and happy to be able to do something for Danny and to say 'Thank you' to the Rugby League community and to everybody who has helped and supported me since Danny died.
“I can’t thank people enough for what they’ve done. They’ve made the most horrific point in my life a little bit more bearable. The kindness has been overwhelming."
Lizzie currently combines her role as a mum with coaching aspiring young singers and teaching audition techniques, and has previously sung professionally at theatres across the country, including the West End.
She admits that her advice to her pupils about overcoming nerves will be fresh in her mind at Wembley for what is always a touching part of Cup final day but is confident of delivering on the biggest stage of all.
She said: “It is going to be emotional, but I’m a professional and can deal with it: and I’m doing it for Danny. That'll get me through it.
“I’ve been a singer since I was 12 in amateur productions and I did it in university – I did a masters in London and have performed all over. I know what I’m doing – I’ll be fine.”
Following Danny's untimely death, the RFL has made heart screening for players at Championship and League 1 clubs mandatory and the profile the tragedy has gained is already having a positive impact.
Lizzie said: "I spoke to a nurse this week who approached me saying that a young man came into the hospital where she works complaining of chest pains.
"He's young, he’s a cyclist and is very fit but had seen what happened to Danny and how it all came out of nowhere.
"That prompted him to go to hospital that day where an ECG revealed he did have a problem with his heart, which the doctors are now treating.
"That decision saved his life: Danny saved his life; he’s already saving people and that's an important legacy.
"He's not just a number. If he can save lives then that’s all I want.”
RFL Chairman Brian Barwick said: “I know everybody in the stadium and the millions watching on TV at home around the world will be supporting Lizzie when she sings Abide With Me on Challenge Cup final day.
“Lizzie has suffered the most devastating loss but is determined to do Danny proud on that day - and I'm sure she will. She is a lady of immense courage and character."
The Just Giving page set up by the RFL Benevolent Fund to help Lizzie Jones and her family has already received donations of over £230,000. To make a donation please visit www.justgiving.com/dannyjones29
Over 70,000 tickets have already been sold for the 2015 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final, Hull KR v Leeds Rhinos at Wembley Stadium on Saturday August 29 but there are plenty of great seats still available from just £20. To book your place at the historic final visit www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk or call the Rugby League Ticket Hotline on 0844 856 1113.