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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Leeds and Haven keen to strengthen links

SUPER League champions Leeds Rhinos are keen to strengthen links with Whitehaven after their weekend trip to the town proved a big hit.

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QUICK HANDS: Carl Rudd keeps the attack moving against Leeds

Haven fought back to beat a Rhinos side including six first-teamers 34-32 at the Recre on Sunday, in front of Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington, head coach Brian McDermott and a host of their top players.

And Hetherington, one of the game’s most influential figures, sees good times ahead for Haven.

“We are always keen to help those who try to help themselves, and Whitehaven are a club trying very hard, with a bright future,” he said.

“The prospect of the new stadium could really be the catalyst for delivering their vision in the future, which is to provide a Super League presence in West Cumbria.

“The relationship continues to prosper and we are very appreciative about how well-received we are in the area.

“It’s a rugby league area and we have a lot of Leeds Rhinos supporters in West Cumbria. That link will continue to grow.

“The work we have been doing in junior schools and at clubs is very encouraging, and we have a partnership now with the lottery, which continues to grow and develop, and we are all very encouraged by that.

“Some of the Whitehaven board and sponsors will be coming down to some Leeds Rhinos games during the season.”

Leeds paid their own expenses for the trip to Cumbria and did not take a penny of match revenue.

And Haven are hugely grateful for their continued involvement.

The Leeds Rugby Foundation worked in local schools and at amateur clubs last week and over 200 people attended a fund-raiser with the Rhinos’ first-team squad at Summergrove on Saturday night.

More than 150 youngsters turned up for a training session the following morning, again, with many of the Leeds stars. And later in the day, Haven scored 22 unanswered points to edge out the visitors, earning praise form Hetherington.

“It was a great effort from Whitehaven to come back like they did,” he said. “Leeds Rhinos were well in charge, and in the second-half the tables turned, with Whitehaven dominating possession.

“They did well to come back and win. Whitehaven fans will be very encouraged by the performance.”

Haven coach Don Gailer will now visit Headingley to study the methods that have turned the Rhinos, under McDermott for the first time last term, in to Super League champs once again.

“Their senior people, Brian and Gary were here, and I had a talk to Brian on Saturday night,” Gailer said. “He’s a sensational bloke and it shows his mettle that he was also here for Sunday’s game when he has a Super League side to prepare.

“From a footballing point of view, I can’t thank them enough for what they done. Our association with Leeds will only get stronger.

“I’m looking forward to spending more time with them, and more importantly, looking forward to spending more time with our squad, as they are a great bunch of blokes.”

Gailer was delighted with stand-off Carl Rudd’s second-half performance against the Rhinos and also noted Leeds’ talented No 6 Stevie Ward, who has been handed a first-team squad number at Headingley this term.

“It looked like he had spiders on him in the first-half, as no one wanted to touch him,” the coach said. “Even towards the end he looked dangerous.

“It will be interesting to see where he goes as he looks a very, very classy young player.”

Haven have no match this weekend and open their Northern Rail Cup account at Hunslet on Sunday week.

Meanwhile, a new award has been inaugurated in honour of one of Haven’s staunchest fans.

The first Tommy Goodwin man-of-the-match award was won by prop Dave Houghton against Oldham. It will now be awarded to the top performer in the first home friendly each season.

Mr Goodwin, who sold programmes at Haven’s first game against Hull in 1948 and maintained his support throughout his life, died in hospital in November aged 76.

His family have been raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Society and Copeland Mental Health Team (older adults) as a thank you to the groups.

“We wanted to repay them for the great job they did for him,” said son Paul, football manager at the Recre.

Supporters splashed out with a New Year’s Eve dip in the sea and a prize bingo at The Stump, Kells, raised over £700.

A Stars in their Eyes evening, a final fund-raiser, will be held in the JJ McKeown bar at the Recre at 7pm on Friday.

Tickets costing £5, including pie and pea supper, raffle and bingo, can be bought in Whitehaven from Unique Sports, Billy McGrady’s Irish Bar, The Stump, and from the Recre. Local singers plus guitar/vocalist John Carole will be on the bill.

“We would like to thank everyone who has supported the fund-raising so far and look forward to seeing you all on Friday,” Paul added.

A swish new calendar-style fixture list for Haven, designed to boost the club’s profile, is now available free at the Recre.

This week’s Pride of Five £100 winners are: L Kyles, Coleridge Drive, Egremont, with ticket number 2,603; E&S Nichols, Borrowdale Road, Whitehaven, 3,562; Mr Stephenson, Bowthorn Road, Cleator Moor, 2,052; DS Pennington, Whitecroft, Gosforth, 719; Ronald Shepherd, Muncaster Road, Whitehaven, 1,939.

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