WARRINGTON Netball League celebrated its 50th anniversary on Saturday with a tournament and presentation evening.

The league was formed half a century ago in 1964, although the pioneer of the set up was Beryl Finney in the 1940s.

She formed an ‘old girls’ team, who played in the Manchester competition, when she left Newton le Willows School.

Finney went on to become a North of England and county player, touring Trinidad and Tobago, and in the early 1960s was invited by Warrington youth officer Cliff Rigg to help him develop netball in youth clubs.

Reg Oliver then asked her to coach his team at the Bell Hall and the league developed rapidly, with works teams forming and an under 18s league being operated by Rigg and Finney.

Later, Val Makin (now Croft) took over the role of coaching, umpiring and organising and she was succeeded by Chris White, now the registration secretary.

What started as a youth league currently sees open age teams compete across four divisions on Wednesdays throughout the year.

Chairperson Emma Pike says the league is now hoping to expand further.

“The winter league matches are played at the Birchwood Sports Centre,” she explained. “But there are hopes a new venue can be found with two or more courts, which could enable games to last longer and also provide more room for spectators and scorers.”

Current high-flyers are Warrington Town’s first team, who won the winter Premier Division and are leading the summer league, along with Halton and Ena Shaw firsts.

The league has become a starting point in the development of players who have gone on to take part in regional and national leagues.

The most able netballers play in the Super League, while some have been attracted to the professional leagues in Australia and New Zealand and achieved great success.

The league boasts a mix of all ages, with 50 and 60-year-olds playing alongside a number of under 16s.

“While the players enjoy the fun and camaraderie, they are also truly competitive when they come on court,” added Pike.