St Albans Centurions Minis at Wembley for Rugby League World Cup semi-final

Mini Centurions at Wembley and with Anne Main

Mini Centurions at Wembley and with Anne Main - Credit: Archant

Mini rugby league players made the big time on Saturday when they acted as escorts for the England team at their crunch semi-final game against New Zealand at Wembley.

St Albans Centurions Minis were joined by Verulam schoolboys who provided the guard of honour at the match which England lost in the last kick of the game.

The occasion was the conclusion of the successful Big Hit initiative which was the brainchild of Centurions co-founder Gary Tetlow. That kicked off in September with the Minis working with local primary schools and was followed by the Rugby League World Cup trophy touring the schools in early September.

Subsequently the schools competed in their own Rugby League World Cup, each representing a national team and playing tag rugby league in the same format as the tournament proper.

By raising the profile of the game, the Centurions managed to sell over 800 tickets for the England v New Zealand game, many to people who had never experienced rugby league first hand. Because of the number of ticket sales, the Minis were invited to be the player escorts.

Gary said this week: “It is fair to say a lot of hard work went into ensuring this initiative proved a success but the results speak for themselves. A real momentum built up from the moment the World Cup trophy toured the schools and onto the game itself. I was immensely proud of the boys and girls involved in the player escorting and guard of honour and I am sure they will remember their experiences for many years to come.

“To achieve such huge tickets sales goes to show how popular rugby league is in this area and the fans were rewarded with a sensational game.

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“When I was involved in the setting up of the Centurions club in 1995, I never dreamt that one day we would be recognised at Wembley Stadium in such a way and to say it was a thrill would be an understatement.”

News of the Centurions’ great effort reached the Houses of Parliament, and prior to the international game, St Albans MP Anne Main delivered a letter of good luck to the club from Sports Minster Helen Grant.

Mrs Main said: “It was an enormously exciting time for the Mini Centurions and it was great to see them so enthusiastic about their role and I am pleased that the Sports Minister recognised the achievement of Gary and his team in getting such a fantastic group of young people together.”