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Brenda Hickin

Brenda Hickin

Brenda Hickin Tales of rugby league

Coming from a small town in East Yorkshire it was all football I had not really heard of rugby or followed sport until I moved to Featherstone, I come from a family who was not really interested in sport. The only sport we watched at the time growing up was football.

I moved to this area over forty years ago and one day while in the garden, weeding I heard all this cheering and shouting and I wondered what it was Les my husband said I think it is a rugby match . So we saw an advert for the next game and we decided to come and see Featherstone play. It was the most exiting game I had ever seen. I could not believe the excitement of watching the match.

The following that the team got almost all of the town followed the local team and the excitement on match day was wonderful. You find you can stand next to a rival supporter and discuss tactics etc and there was never any trouble. The tradition of following your local team is passed down from one generation to the next and you find grand parents and parents and the next generation of children enjoying the rugby match, it is a sport that crosses all generations.

The very first match that we saw was so exiting, the crowd were in full voice cheering the excitement in the air and the anticipation of your team doing well and winning it was a wonderful experience. we saw a wonderful try the left centre was a man called Carl Gibson he had been playing for Leeds and he had come to Featherstone, he was getting to the end of his career. He picked the ball up and he ran the full length of the field to score a try, the crowd went wild with excitement it was a wonderful moment and one that we have remembered more then 25 years later.

Featherstone is a small town with the rugby ground at the heart of it, the people are very friendly and match day is something to look forward to and there is always plenty to talk about. We once came to a match and it started snowing and you couldn’t see from one side of the field to the other, we did laugh about it, the players carried on and finished the match on a high. The next town to Featherstone is Castleford and a few of my grandchildren support Cas, they also have a good following and again the rugby ground is at the heart of the community. The next town is Wakefield and once again rugby is played there and some of my grandchildren support them. I think that the game of rugby brings people together and crosses all generations and boundaries like no other sport does.

Julia lee by Brenda Hickin
Julia was the first woman referee in rugby league, the team she supported was Hull Kingston Rovers, she knew at the age of 12 that she wanted to be a referee. She was first interested in rugby when her uncle refused to take her to a match saying that the terraces were no place for a young girl. It was like a red rag to a bull and it made her more determined. When she was 17 she saw an advert they were looking for rugby league referees, she decided to apply but she failed to mention that she was a woman. It took them three months to accept her, there was very little training in those days you were handed a rule book and told to get on with it. She refereed more then 500 games in England and Australia. She said that she was not very good when people said ‘no!’ This determination to change the establishment saw her become the first woman to referee a mans rugby league match. After 5 years she became a graded official she moved to London for a while and also lived in Australia for a year.  She retired in 2000 due to a back injury, her life story is in a play which was premiered in her home town of Hull .

Julia was born in Kingston upon Hull in 1968 . A play was wrote about her by Sarah Jane Dickinson. A fictional account and it is called Ref, it was inspired by Julia Lees career. Ref is part of a project called Crossing the Line, which is aimed at the participation of women in Rugby League. And it will be at the National museum it opens in 2021 .


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