Published: 20 July, 2017 - 2:41 pm

By Oli Breslin

Fifty local primary school children enjoyed a day they’ll never forget – playing rugby in front of a big crowd at Bootham Crescent before York City Knights’ game with Workington last Sunday.

In total, 10 teams from 5 schools including Hempland Primary, Tang Hall, St Mary’s Church of England, St Wilfrid’s Roman Catholic and Clifton Green schools took to the pitch before staying to watch the main event and Knights’ big win.

The festival was offered on the back of York City Knights Foundation’s city-wide schools offer, open to local primary schools, and follows on from the free-of-charge Sky Try programme. Over the last 2 years the Foundation have coached more than 4000 children in schools and given many of them the opportunity to take part in rugby league festivals. 

Adam Prentis, York City Knights Foundation Delivery Manager, said: “Our aim was to offer a minimum of 35 minutes playing time per child, which is something we not only achieved but exceeded. We are keen on having all children playing, and avoid having substitutes. Schools were asked if they would like to bring more than one team which was well received.”

With Under-16’s able to watch all of the Knights’ home games for free this season, the children were also able to get involved with more pre-match entertainment before cheering the Knights on to victory.

“Putting this event on at Bootham Crescent was not only something new for us, but a great experience for all of the children that attended,” Prentis added. 

“We are keen to make match-days a family day out; and it was great to see the kids getting involved with activities including being mascots, guards of honour, inflatable skill zone, meeting Norris the Knight and then coming back on the pitch at half-time to play in front of a crowd of over 1000 people.

“I would thank all the volunteers, parents, players and teachers for supporting the event.”

Aimee Wilkinson, a teacher at Hempland Primary, said: “We had a Year 3 and a Year 4 team here today, and they all really enjoyed the day. Five of them play rugby league outside of school and they loved playing in a proper stadium, in front of lots of fans and seeing the Knights players around the ground.

“We have a tag rugby club at school and play it in PE, but this was great for the kids to play against new teams and make new friends.”

Prentis hopes that the success of Sunday’s event will help the youngsters pursue opportunities to play the game; “Some of these children are already playing at local community clubs, for others we hope events like this linked to our school’s programme and go onto to motivate and highlight playing opportunities available.”

For more information about local playing opportunities please email a.prentis@yorkcityknights.com