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Is it now or never for a team from Cumbria in Super League?

After the success of the World Cup across the UK, with West Cumbria being one of many that sold out most of its games. It proved, if nothing else, the appetite is there for top flight Rugby in the area.

If we turn the clock back to Super League I in 1996 when a Cumbrian side would be in the top flight for the only time in full time era, Town really struggled and won only 2 games that year and were relegated. Whitehaven flirted with success with a couple of championship grand finals but that apart the Cumbrian sides have struggled with falling attendance’s, and fighting sometimes, for their very existence. Talk of mergers between all 3 Cumbrian sides or just the West Cumbrian ones are old topics and nothing new, but is their only chance to have a top flight team?

Fans of all the clubs seem hell bent on vetoing any merger and this can be understood as all the clubs have a proud heritage and identities in their own right. But is identity and heritage enough to block the possibility of a competitive side in the top flight?

Since the creation of Super League there’s been a constant trickle of players leaving the mother county to apply their trade for clubs in Yorkshire, Lancashire and even the capital. From Steve McCurrie, Chris Rudd, Garry Chambers and Dave Elliot in the early 90’s to Simon Knox, Steven Holgate, Howard Hill and Gary Broadbent in the mid 90’s to more modern players like Gary Purdham, Ben Harrison, Ewen Dowes, Oliver Wilkes, Kyle Amor,  James Donaldson and Brad Singleton are all Cumbrian's who have had success. Lee Mossop has even made the way to the NRL where he has signed for the Parramatta Eels.

If Cumbria had a Super League club and it competed on level playing field with the full time boys, would the exudous continue? Who knows but it would certainly be another option for the players who want to make it in the top flight. The amateur game in the area is very strong  and the junior clubs are a match for their Lancashire and Yorkshire counterparts but the career path for these boys is always down the M6. Scouts from Wigan, Warrington and Bradford are often seen at junior games in the area and the lack of competition from local clubs makes the decision to leave a whole lot easier. Super League clubs, the Hull clubs apart generally have Cumbrian players in their ranks.

As a proud Cumbrian I wish I could have had the option of a full time position on my doorstep but that option wasn’t there and I left. I have no regrets about that move, 20 years ago, but I strongly believe that a combined Cumbrian team would certainly add something to the competition. In my humble opinion if Cumbria had the backing from the governing body like other less established areas of rugby league have had, it would be a viable entity that would be able to self-support its self  through locally produced youngsters.  

The RFL has now committed a study to review all aspects of the game in West Cumbria, so maybe the future is brighter and the career path of the next Hensingham, Kells or Barrow Island junior lies in a fully-fledged Super League club in the area.

Here’s hoping!!