WARRINGTON’S community rugby league family has pulled together to show what can be achieved despite living in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Twenty-four junior teams and 281 players across the town’s seven grassroots clubs played matches in a secure environment facilitated by the Warrington Wolves Foundation on Sunday.

And over the next seven weeks boys and girls from under sevens to under 16s will get to taste the joy of playing the sport again.

Lee Mitchell, the Warrington Wolves Foundation rugby league manager, spoke about why it is considered so important for the youngsters to return to rugby league at this time.

“It’s playing a team sport, that enjoyment and sense of normality has a massive impact on their mental and physical health,” he said.

“We have to live happy and active and this is a great way of doing that.

“You can’t get past what that team spirit and team morale brings to people.

Warrington Guardian:

Latchford Giants teams in action during the return to rugby matches at Victoria Park on Sunday

Warrington Guardian: Warrington Guardian: Warrington Guardian:

“And it’s that sense of normality what we’ve not had for seven months, now being able to do something we did before – in a slightly different way but in a way as safe as possible.

“It brings that joy, that togetherness, that community spirit, everything that rugby league does well.

“I saw some comments from coaches on their Facebook pages saying they needed this more than the kids, so it was a sense of normality and a release for them as well.

“Every kid left with a smile on their face.

“There were some really competitive games, they were all close, lots of tries scored, lots of tackles made, lots of decisions made such as passes, so it was good.

“I couldn’t tell you one result from any of the games to be honest. It wasn’t really about that.

“We even had teams who would share players if needed, with maybe a couple of teams a few players short. And they swapped over, were mixed up, so that the games were competitive and even. And that’s the sort of community spirit we’ve created with all our teams and clubs.

“It’s about the kids playing and having the best experience they can now.

“There’s lots of benefits for everyone in this as long as we keep our high standards that we’ve set and we keep adapting.

“As an area we’re setting a bit of a precedence that we’re offering to do this for the benefit of our clubs in Warrington because we are that passionate about the clubs playing, so we want to look after them and make their lives as easy as possible.”

The Foundation and clubs have held regular meetings over Zoom online over the past months to get to where they are now, leading to the Rugby Football League and North West Counties Rugby League playing their part too.

Mitchell explained: “We’ve worked together as one community throughout every stage of their return to play.

“Teams have helped each other, established risk assessments, given each other ideas, shared best practice, and we’ve kind of orchestrated that as a Foundation that’s brought everyone together and we’ve led some of them discussions.

“Just to give people an idea because of the times we’re in, we’ve tried to leave no stone unturned to make the space and facilities as safe as possible.

“We used the Victoria Park Stadium and Arena. They’ve both got clear entry and exit points, they’ve got one-way systems now which we’ve adopted.

“Every team, before they arrive, have to do a self assessment check. The parent does all the checks for their child, such as there being a continuous cough.

“They get a strict arrival time and a certain parking zone on Victoria Park. We’re fortunate we have such a big space for that to happen.

“As the teams arrive, they are collected as a group and walk socially distanced to the pitch they are playing on.

“They are temperature checked on the doors, the parents do track and trace on the way in.

“Everyone has to get their hands sanitised.

“The parents are given spectator zones to stand in, which are all socially distanced around the side. We did limit parents as well to one parent per child, to limit the numbers of people in attendance.

“The kids played their game and were then ushered and escorted out by the Foundation staff and volunteers as the next group arrived. And it worked like clockwork really.”

Teams will have a fortnight between games to further limit the risks.