DEVOTED to each other and devoted to voluntary rugby league administration with Warrington Wolves and Woolston Rovers – but now Dave and Nikki Whalley have become rivals in the sport, too.

The Warrington husband and wife have recently accepted team manager posts of international women’s sides - Dave with Ireland and Nikki with Wales - and amazingly their first game involved was against each other.

Taxi driver Dave, 55, and Brook Acre Community Primary School teaching assistant Nikki, 54, put 34 years of marriage on the line to see who came out on top in the Women’s Rugby League European Championship B title decider in Dublin.

It was Nikki who flew home happy, with Wales winning 44-4 against Ireland.

“I imagine that it is quite unusual to have a husband and wife in opposition in rugby league,” said Dave, a former student of Richard Fairclough High School.

“Nikki got the Wales job about three to four weeks before I got the Ireland job, which is rather funny, because I support Wales in everything because of my mum’s side of the family being from North Wales.

“But Nikki’s grandparents are from the Republic of Ireland, so she’s got the Irish ancestry and I’ve got the Welsh ancestry but we got the jobs the other way round.

“It was the first time that I’ve not wanted Wales to win but it didn’t work out well for me. There has been a bit of joking between us but it’s been really good because it’s not very often you get two international team managers from the same house.”

Dave explained how the role involves, among other things, booking flights and hotel accommodation for the teams and staff where necessary, booking training venues and food after matches and training, ordering leisure wear for players, keeping players and coaches informed of necessary details, generally making sure everything is set up for match days, completing matchday paperwork and attending meetings.

“Neither of us has any input on picking the teams, thankfully,” said Dave.

“For Nikki, she has to go down to South Wales a lot for the training. It’s early days, but it’s exciting at the same time. It was Ireland’s third ever game, and I think it was Wales’ fourth or fifth game, so it’s nice to get involved in the beginning so we can see how far it develops with our input. From the messages we’ve had already, it’s been a positive start - the girls have been happy with what’s been put in place for them, which is nice.

“When the girls from both teams found out we were husband and wife, they couldn’t believe it and thought it was really funny. After the game, the Wales girls tried to get me to have a photograph with Nikki holding the trophy – but I refused.

“However, they’ve super imposed my head on the captain with the trophy in her hands. It’s all good fun.”

There will be more international duty to come for them in 2025 World Cup qualifiers next July, but the couple, who have a busy family life around three daughters, a son and three grandchildren, will have plenty of other rugby league commitments before then.

Dave is the treasurer and public relations officer for Woolston Rovers RLFC, and has just completed 13 seasons as team manager with Warrington Wolves Academy and Reserves teams.

And Nikki is Woolston Rovers secretary and welfare officer, Warrington Wolves Women and girls’ welfare officer, as well as the North West Girls hub under 14s and under 16s team manager.

“It’s like a labour of love,” said Dave.

“The fortunate thing for me as a self-employed taxi driver is that I can work around the rugby. I don’t know how Nikki manages because she’s a teaching assistant, so she can’t have time off during the day for example."

Dave’s involvement in volunteering came through his dad, Warren, a former chairman of Woolston Rovers who currently holds the position of senior vice-president.

“My dad got me roped into it and he’s still doing it but Nikki’s from Reading and until she met me in July 1985, she’d never seen a rugby league game," said Dave.

“It’s only since coming down to Woolston that she ended up getting roped in too. Once you start volunteering for something in this game, you can never get away! She’s out at rugby more than me now.

“In terms of the time we put into it, it’s frightening really if you totted it up. It’s not just being out at the rugby, it’s the stuff you do to prepare for things. It’s non-stop, 12 months of the year.

“It’s all good fun and we love it. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t enjoy it.”