This has been an incredibly difficult year for everybody, but it has proved the strength and resilience of rugby league and its communities.
What has shone through for me is how connected the sport is to the towns and cities that host it.
People involved at clubs reached out and helped those that needed it in the communities in a variety of ways.
And the communities repaid that by supporting the clubs financially, effectively giving thousands of pounds by donating season tickets that they’d bought but couldn’t use.
On the field, we’ve seen the resilience of players and coaching staffs. Everyone of them had to take pay cuts, but accepted matches at the last minute and delivered more games in a short period of time than we’ve seen since the sport went professional.
The rule changes that were introduced which included scrapping scrums and cutting down on penalties actually made it a better product to watch.
Then we had the Grand Final between St Helens and Wigan, which produced such a high-quality game and the most incredible finish you could imagine with Jack Welsby’s last-second winner for Saints.
We have to look at those positives as a sport and take them forward into what is a huge year in 2021. We’ve seen again this year what a great spectacle we’ve got on the field, but you only have truly great events when there are fans in the ground.
I’m really looking forward to the sport creating those memorable events again when we have electric atmospheres inside the stadiums.
We especially need that ahead of the World Cup in this country, which is such an opportunity for rugby league. We have the chance to showcase the sport across the country and – hopefully – the general public will really buy into that.
Something else that has captured the nation’s attention this year is Rob Burrow’s battle with motor neurone disease. Rob was a great player but it’s the way that both him and his family have handled the situation that they’re in which has really inspired people.
Rob is resilient, he’s optimistic and he’s humble.
They are three traits essential to people involved in rugby league and people seeing them in Rob is one of the reasons his story has gone well beyond the boundaries of the sport, in a year where the sport and its followers have reached out to each other.
***Betfred – Passionate about Rugby League ***