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Schools invited to join rugby league festival

By Sportsnews  |  Posted: February 01, 2013

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Schools across Gloucestershire have been invited to play in the Cheltenham Rugby Festival in May.

Now in its sixth year, the popular festival for schools will take place on Thursday May 9,  from 9am to 3pm, at the University of Gloucestershire.

The event will be held at the university's sports ground at the Folley, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, and features nine-a-side rugby league.

The festival was introduced to the local sporting scene in 2008 as this was the centenary year commemorating the Great Match of February 15, 1908, when New Zealand All Golds defeated Great Britain 8-5 at the former Athletic Ground in Cheltenham to win rugby league's first ever deciding international.

Event manager Victoria McCreevey: "The aim is to have all secondary schools represented within Gloucestershire and for the first time we are aiming to have more girls involved now to include school years 7 to 10.

The names of the trophies and awards highlight the key elements of the historic match, so the boys' teams compete for the 1908 Cup and the player of the tournament in each age group – years 7, 8, 9 and 10 receives the Arthur Smith Award.

'Mad' Arthur as he was affectionately known was a great Forest of Dean Rugby Union player who then joined Oldham rugby league club and was selected to play for Great Britain in the Great Match of 1908.

The Golden Fern Cup is awarded to the winning girls' schools in the same age groups, Years 7 to 10.

The Golden Fern symbol has been adopted by the successful University of Gloucestershire's rugby league team, the All Golds. The player of the competition in each of the girls age groups receives the Empress Award. This is named after the ship that brought the New Zealand All Golds to England from France.

Furthermore the William Holder Award will be presented this year for the first time to the outstanding teacher.

Holder played for Gloucester Rugby Union and then joined Hull and he too played for Great Britain in the 1908 match. According to the Echo at the time he was "the best on the day for the Northern Union". Great Britain was known by this name at that time.

One of Gloucester rugby's great heroes was Lesley Vainikolo. Accordingly there is an award in his name and is presented to the school that displays the best sportsmanship, enthusiasm and conduct. Lesley was a great Kiwi Rugby League international and star at Bradford Bulls before joining Gloucester Rugby.

Festival Founder Lionel said: "The aim is and always has been simple and clear – that the Cheltenham Festival will become one of the great schools' sports events in the nation. We continue to be on course."

All enquires with regard to participation, rules and coaching should be addressed to the All Golds Schools' Liaison Officer Josh Pettifer on pettifer.josh@gmail.com or 07595 596725 or contact the Event Manager Victoria McCreevey on tagv@me.com or 07766 977589

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