The term rugby league heartland is often thrown about but with expansion teams such as Catalans Dragons, Toulouse Olympique and London Broncos all in Grand Finals this coming weekend, then perhaps the sport is truly growing beyond the M62.
One heartland that is often forgotten about though is Cumbria given that it doesn’t have a Super League side, something that the likes of Mike ‘Stevo’ Stephenson have called for by way of a possible merger.
Another man who is a major advocate for a Cumbrian Super League side is proud Cumbrian Kyle Amor, who is set to play in his testimonial for Cumbria when they host Wales later this month.
Amor is hanging up the boots after a long and illustrious career, one that started with Whitehaven and he now plans on calling time with a final game for his home county of Cumbria.
In a passionate and rousing statement on Sky Sports’ The Bench podcast, Amor explained the importance of Cumbria to rugby league on the international scene, as well as the pride in playing for them.
“The fact is that when even Scotland played in the Four Nations, we got five and six thousand there,” Amor explained.
“The amateur clubs, when you go up there, all the fans around there are either wearing an amateur club or NRL or Super League tops, and whenever top flight Rugby comes there, the crowds come out for it so there’s an appetite there and that’s what I’m trying to grab hold of really.
“We’ve spoken about, not just this year, we want to try and make Cumbria Rugby League a genuine fixture for some of these emerging nations or these lower tier nations if you like.
“We’ve got Italy, Serbia, Ireland, Scotland, Wales; I genuinely think that they’ll get more out of it playing Cumbria in Cumbria, an experience for the heartland of the game, loads of fans come out and want to be associated with it and for those teams rather than play in England and getting 60 points put on them.
“It’s a bit like taking your son to football and he wins 10-0, he doesn’t get anything out of that and they don’t get anything out of it, the team they beat doesn’t get anything out of it.”
Cumbria most recently played against Jamaica ahead of the World Cup, beating them 28-12 and Amor has detailed the upcoming Wales visit as being another building block, with natives seeing the value too.
“John (Kear) is really excited about coming up to Cumbria. Workington Town are letting them train there, there’s a restaurant in town that’s going to look after them and they’re going to experience something; but people are willing to help out, the hotels that Wales are staying in, they’ve looked after them really, they see the value of bringing the national side up to Cumbria and giving the Cumbrian crowd an opportunity to come out, but not only that, but get behind their own players.”
Amor also revealed which Super League stars will be taking to the field alongside him.
“James Donaldson, he’ll make his first appearance for Cumbria, Morgan Knowles, I know he’s desperate to play for Cumbria as well, but obviously he’s on that level now where he’s international and it makes it difficult for him to do that; but we’re really, really proud people of where we’re from.”
“I’ve always wanted Cumbria and top-flight rugby to come up to Cumbria. I’ve said it for years, but the appetite for the game is still very much there.”