A GROUP of hardy rugby players kick-started the New Year by taking a dip in the icy waters of the Irish Sea.

Whitehaven Rugby Union's annual 'Fat Lads' Dip' took place on the Golden Sands at Whitehaven Harbour on New Year's Day.

Around £600 has been raised for Whitehaven First Responders.

The annual event has been held for 22 years and was started off by Andrew McCourt. The tradition has been carried on by John Bond, a stalwart and former player at the club.

A number of young players from the club’s youth section, the sharks, now enjoy taking part.

John said: “It’s good to see the dip grow year by year with the Sharks coming through, as this was the biggest one to date and for a worthy cause of the Whitehaven First Responders.

“I do it every year to keep raising money for various charities, although small, they are always very much appreciated by the recipients.”

This year, John also took part in the New Year’s Eve Dip, organised by the Golden Sands Polar Bear Club, and raised £1,500 for autism charity, Bee Unique.

He said: “This year I did it over two days to also help raise money for Bee Unique, which is run by some of my friends who are doing an amazing job for the local community.”

Lee Jones, coach for Whitehaven RUFC Sharks, said: “We had 32 Sharks players, ranging from the Under 7s through to the Under 14s who took part, including their parents and also some of the coaches.

“All the kids had an amazing time in the water and it was fantastic to see them with smiles on their faces even when the water temperature seemed to be a lot colder than previous years.

“Whitehaven RUFC is a family club and it was great to have the Sharks take part in the annual club event and raise money for the Whitehaven Community First Responders who do an amazing job giving up their own time to provide critical care until paramedics arrive.

“It was also great to have the First Responders join us to brave the cold even if it just meant that they only stuck their toe in.

“A huge thanks and well done again to both players and parents for showing their support to attend the event and for also taking part.”

READ MORE: Dozens take a dip at Golden Sands, Whitehaven for New Year's Eve