After last weeks epic Rugby League World Cup semi-final which pitted England against a powerful Tongan team – attention switches to the mighty Kangaroos and Brisbane for a blockbuster Final.
BBC Commentators Dave Woods and former Great Britain Rugby League Lions Captain Brian Noble will be hosting the coverage on Saturday from 8.30am and they took time out of their schedule to help promote the successful Ellis Rugby Vintage Great Britain Rugby League Lions Collection.
Yes -the most iconic brand in British rugby league is back: and the sport’s cognoscenti just can’t get enough.
Two years out from the start of a long-overdue Great Britain tour of the southern hemisphere, the Rugby League Lions Association has launched a range of heritage clothing celebrating a touring tradition which dates back to 1910. Working with Ellis Rugby, the Lions have produced a fantastic collection of garments, including hoodies, polo shirts, T-shirts, sweatshirts, a replica jersey and must-have track top, based on the Great Britain jersey design of the last 1980s.
The apparel has been so well received that the production schedule has had to be stepped up to meet demand from fans, many of whom are going to be especially thankful to Santa come Christmas Day morning. Many of the sales have come directly from Ellis Rugby on their website but the independent shops, online retailers and clubs who have been quick to grasp the commercial appeal of the Lions brand are enjoying brisk business.
“We are delighted with the response to the Lions heritage range from fans of all ages,” said Lions Association secretary John Ledger. “The feedback we’ve had has been universally positive. “That’s partly down to the fantastic quality of the garments from Ellis Rugby, the timelessness of the Lions brand and the special nature of the memories created by the stars who have worn the Great Britain jersey.
“We would like to thank clubs like Wigan Warriors and Featherstone Rovers for getting behind this initiative. It would be great to see more clubs involved, especially since we’re doing this partly to help the game’s most important stakeholders, its players.” The RL Lions Association receives a commission from the sale of every garment and will be donating all the proceeds to Rugby League Cares for its player welfare programme, which funds training and education courses to help players prepare for life after rugby and supports retired players enduring hardship and ill-health.
Ellis Rugby MD Kevin Ellis, a former Rugby League player himself, said the company were struggling to keep up with demand.
“The initial production run is selling exceptionally well and we anticipate there will be a lot of empty shelves come Christmas,” he said. “We do have stock available but the more people become aware of the range, and the more people see it for the first time, the quicker it goes. “Like a lot of things that are new, there’s been some nervousness about stocking the Lions range but the retailers who have got in early couldn’t be happier.”
The design pays tribute to the kit sported by the likes of Andy Gregory, Ellery Hanley, Mike Gregory, Garry Schofield, Martin Offiah, Kevin Ward and Henderson Gill during what very nearly became a golden period for the sport in this country. Under the guidance of coach Malcolm Reilly, an Ashes winner with the 1970 Lions, Great Britain went closer than that had to taming the all-conquering Kangaroos, who had elevated the sport to a whole new level on the 1982 and 1986 tours.
Reilly imbued Great Britain with the structure and belief that had largely been absent since their last victory over Australia in the second Test of the 1978 series on home soil. The Lions’ finest hour with Reilly as coach arguably came in the 1988 third Test at the Sydney Football, where rarely in the history of international sport has there been a finer performance.
The match was a cracker as, led by a masterful performance from the imperious Andy Gregory, Great Britain battled to a 26-12 win, the highlight of which was the second try of the night from Henderson Gill. From deep inside the Great Britain half and with Australia threatening a fightback, St Helens centre Paul Loughlin broke clear down the right and made it across the halfway line before releasing the Wigan winger.
With 40 metres and Australia’s rock-solid full-back Garry Jack between him and the line, Gill had a lot of work to do but he applied the burners and sped away to score before celebrating with a famous dance that the TV commentator lauded as a “bit of a boogie.”
Gill and Andy Gregory were both at the launch of the Great Britain range at Huddersfield University’s Heritage Quay in October, when two very proud Lions reminisced with understandable fondness a match they will never forget. “I can remember that match as if it was yesterday,” said Gill. “I don’t know where the celebration came from, it kind of just happened. “I’ve not done a boogie for a while now. After having my hip replaced it hurts too much! “I really enjoyed my international career and am hugely proud of all I achieved. That was a very special day and it’s brilliant that the Lions Association is honouring that era in this way.”
Andy Gregory said he was thrilled to have the opportunity to help the Lions Association promote the heritage range. “It’s tremendous to be part of something like this that puts money back into the game for such a great cause,” said Gregory. “Players involved in most other sports get looked after properly but rugby league was lagging behind until RL Cares came along. “It’s a tremendous move by the Lions Association. Since I finished playing I’ve had my own challenges and RL Cares has helped look after me. “There are lots of other players, past and present who benefit from the support of RL Cares and I am delighted to promote this new range.”
Full details of the RL Lions Association heritage range can be found on the Ellis Rugby website: ellisrugby.com