Swinton Lions

Swinton Lions’ season like so many other sporting clubs, has been put on pause due to Covid-19 causing the Betfred Championship campaign to suspend indefinitely. 

However, despite the understandable disruption to the on-field action, the Lions’ new Director of Development Damian Ridpath has remained extremely busy.

He explained, “In terms of continuing to develop the infrastructure behind the scenes, it remains all systems go.

“The lockdown in that sense has not been a hindrance, as we have been able to concentrate our focus on a number of development projects moving forward.

“At the moment we are working very closely with the RFL on helping to set up the Greater Manchester Player Development League, an initiative that will enable young people to experience Rugby League for the first time.

“We have also been re-establishing our player pathway opportunities via a new Development Academy in partnership with The Rugby College, which will enable 16 to 19-year-olds attain post-GCSE qualifications whilst participating within a Rugby training and playing environment.

“We’re also working very closely with Trafford Council on a number of initiatives. Trafford is obviously the local authority in which we play our home games, and as a club, we are taking a proactive stance to develop a range of projects and opportunities within that area.

“So there’s lots on the agenda and much to look forward to moving forward.”

However, one project that has had to take a temporary step back is the club’s formal launch of their proposed women’s team, the “Lionesses”.

Ridpath continued, “We had already formed the basis a structure thanks to a good response from a variety of age groups, and the Lionesses were due to start training in Easter, but obviously due to current circumstances this hasn’t happened.

But the actual planning and preparation for the team have continued regardless and everything is in place for when the shutdown is lifted.

“Indeed we have used the downtime to add more detail to our delivery plan and to put a range of supports in place which will enhance the experience of anyone wanting to get involved with the Lionesses once the time is right.

“Of course, it’s a little frustrating, but naturally we understand the seriousness of Covid-19 and so, for now, it’s important that we follow all the appropriate guidelines set by the government.”

Meanwhile, in respect of the Swinton Lions playing and coaching staff, Assistant Coach Allan Coleman spoke about how everyone has been coping in such challenging times.

Coleman said “It’s clearly a difficult time not just for us, but for anybody in everyday life.

“However, for some people sport is their life and we have some players who are missing it like crazy.

“That said, of course, we all understand the seriousness of the situation and the need to do the right thing and to stay safe.”

However, Coleman doesn’t think that the break-in play will affect the Lions’ aims and ambitions for the season, and furthermore he was confident that the extended break could help them come back stronger after a mixed start to the season.

He continued, “The focus is still the same for us, we’ve got to be better than last year. It’s like family, if you’re away from family you can’t wait to get home, you can’t wait to see them.

“I think it’s the same with sport and it certainly will be with our guys because we’re so close-knit.

“I think the boys will really want to get straight back into it, and if anything it gives them an added incentive to be better and to succeed.”

Coleman also wanted to emphasise how himself and Head Coach Stuart Littler have been helping the players deal mentally with the enforced lay-off.

“There is a certain mental attitude that’s required away from game day, and people mentally have got to be in a good position.

Stuart (Littler) has been really good at ensuring that we are asking our people, ‘how are you this morning?’ Are you okay?’ I think that’s a really positive side of the things that we are doing as a club.

We’re all checking in on each other every day and making sure that everyone is fine, and if anybody needs a chat or needs anything, in particular, we are there as a group both as a club and as friends.”

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