Former Wigan Warriors centre Kevin Brown joins fellow Orrell St James youth coaches on 90-mile walk to raise money for France trip
The planned 90-mile walk along the Leeds and Liverpool canal, from Leeds to Wigan, was organised by Orrell St James to generate funds for a tour of Catalans in 2023.
Former England international Brown was joined by fellow under-nines coaches Dave Dempsey, Stephen Fairhurst, Ben Hogg and Joe Molyneux, with the RFL’s John McMullen providing logistical support.
McMullen said: “I think in the end it was over 100 miles because we didn’t take into account exiting and accessing the canal. None of them had done that kind of walking before, but they did a fantastic job in achieving it.
“The coaches decided they would take up the challenge, but needed support where they could eat and rest, so I put my hand up as one of the parents and said I was more than happy to help and make sure they were in the best place to complete it.
“It was certainly hard, they all had wobbles along the way. Part of the canal which looked flat and easy, ended up being quite difficult. They have gone through blisters, pulled calf muscles, sore shins and fatigue. I couldn’t be any prouder of the group as a whole.”
McMullen was delighted for each coach who took on the walk, with each person overcoming their own challenges to reach the finish line.
“Joe (Molyneux) was an absolute warrior, he never stopped and was very motivated. He was always at the front of the group and driving them forward. Ben (Hogg) injured himself last year playing, but sprung and bounced all the way along.
“Stephen (Fairhurst) ended up supporting me in the van because he injured his hip en route, so he made sure the others got through it. Dave (Dempsey) had great mental strength, he had blisters on blisters, it looked like strawberries coming out his toes, but he was resilient.
“And, the selflessness of Kev Brown, in his retirement year, is a fantastic testament to the genuine type of bloke he is. For him to give back to the community by making donations and doing charitable things like this is great.
“It was an emotional finish for a few of them. We all had a tear in our eyes watching them cross the line.”
The 48-hour challenge was set up as part of a number of fund-raisers to allow more than 30 junior players compete at a festival of rugby league in Perpignan, with the eventual target being £20,000.
After the most recent challenge the total stands at just under £4,000, but they are confident it will keep going up.
McMullen says the good cause behind the challenge kept everyone going throughout the 90-plus mile walk.
He said: “Videos from the players acted as motivation, especially at night when they were walking in the freezing cold and rain. It was really nice for them to get this support.
“It is a fantastic engagement tool to show people can have ongoing life changing experiences while learning you’ve got to work hard to overcome challenges.
“The ethos of the club is if you are a good person you can do good things.
“There is no better investment because it is a great project where you can feel and see benefits from it. It is also a great motivation for people to stay involved.
“The opportunity will give the kids a chance to experience a new lifestyle, language and culture, and will let them see the sport they love.
“Rugby league has always been a very innovative sport for maximising potential.”
After setting off from Bridge Road at 6pm on Friday evening, the coaches arrived back at Orrell St James at 7.30pm on Sunday.
Another reason for Brown opting to take part is due to his son Harry playing for the club.
On Orrell’s Facebook page, he wrote: “We have 30-odd under-nines kids at Orrell St James. We want all of them, regardless of family circumstances, to be able to make that trip to Perpignan.
“It will be a fantastic experience for them, and some may even go on to enjoy a career in rugby league, as I have.
“I hope people out there can find a few pounds, or even a few pence, to help them on their way.”
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