Egremont Rangers is one of the best known clubs in British Amateur Rugby League. Tracing its formation back to the very beginning of the 20th Century, the club is one which has become synonymous with the production of high quality players, and for its frequent dalliance with the sports headlines. Indeed, when the very first touring party representing the Northern Union departed these shores for Test match battle in the Antipodes in 1910, there was an Egremont product - Leeds forward Billy Ward - among
its number. Egremont (the "Rangers" moniker was added in 1922) first encountered senior opposition in the Challenge Cup as long ago as 1906, and in more modern times, in 1998, claimed a professional scalp when fellow-Cumbrians Workington Town fell victim to Rangers at Whitehaven's
Recreation Ground. When Amateur Internationals against France were inaugurated in 1935 there was an Egremont player in the very first England team which travelled to play in Paris, and "(Egremont Rangers)" has followed the name of many a player in amateur international teams since then.
So the side you see before you this afternoon has much to live up to. Off the field, too, Rangers have generally fallen in to the "progressive" category. They were among the first to develop social facilities in the
early 1970's, at about the same time as it placed new emphasis on Youth development. That's something continued to this day, such that many of the players you'll see before you this afternoon will have come through Egremont's own Youth sides, many commencing their Rugby League careers in childhood. It's something that Egremont Rangers can and should be proud of, a massive force for social and physical wellbeing in a world much changed from that into which the club was born all those years ago. And
although the club rightly takes pride in the development of players, sometimes to the highest level, those enjoying participation in the game "for its own sake" are every bit as important and just as entwined in its fabric. Most people in this modest former iron ore town will know someone - a family member, friend, neighbour or workmate - who plays, used to play, supports or is otherwise involved in the towns Rugby League club, than at any other time. Rugby League is in Egremonts DNA.
Rangers were founder member of the then National Amateur League back in 1986, were Championship runners up in 1989-90, perhaps deflected by a memorable National Cup triumph, before capturing the League title in 1998, and after a short period back in the Cumberland League, are now happily
returned to the now-named Conference. Competing in Division 2, they have been "competitive" since their return, but realistically no more than that. Now, however, invigorated by an infusion into the First X111 of some exceptionally talented young players, and currently jostling among the Divisional leaders, they look poised to mount a serious challenge for promotion.
What's more, their appearance against the Skolars is reward for surviving a punishing Challenge Cup schedule thus far. Local rivals Millom were accounted for away from home, as was fellow-Conference side Waterhead. But it was the triumph over near-neighbours and one time Cup conquerors of the Skolars, Wath Brow Hornets, which really made people sit up and take notice of what was happening at Egremont. Unexpected by all but those closest to the Rangers camp, against a bigger opposition and on a gluepot pitch which mitigated against their normal fast-moving game, Rangers dug deep into reservoirs of courage and commitment to truly come of age on an afternoon of spellbinding drama and excitement.
That the club has a fantastic past is beyond question....but the present and future don't look too bad either!