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Six rugby league names recognised in King’s Honours List but one name still absent

RFL Chair Simon Johnson has hailed the publication of the King’s Honours List as “a great day for Wheelchair Rugby League and the whole of the community game”.

Four members of England’s Wheelchair Rugby League squad have been recognised following last autumn’s thrilling World Cup triumph – captain Tom Halliwell, who has been awarded the OBE, plus Sebastien Bechara, James Simpson and head coach Tom Coyd, who have been awarded the MBE – while Sue Taylor, the RFL Vice-President and Chair of the British Amateur Rugby League Association, has also been awarded the MBE for her long-term service to the community game.

In addition Jon Dutton, who was Chief Executive of Rugby League World Cup 2021 having previously worked as the RFL’s Director of Projects and People, has been awarded the OBE for his leading role in the delivery of the biggest, best and most inclusive tournament in the sport’s history.

However, some fans are no doubt dismayed that the wait for a Knighthood for Kevin Sinfield goes on.

“On behalf of the sport of Rugby League, I congratulate all those recognised in today’s Honours List, and especially those who have been recognised for their service to the sport of Rugby League,” said Johnson, who is also a Board member of RL Commercial.

“We are delighted by this recognition of the most inclusive World Cup in the sport’s history, and of the thrilling success of our England Wheelchair team.

“Jon Dutton and his organising team worked tirelessly to deliver a magnificent tournament, overcoming numerous challenges – most notably the Covid-19 pandemic which led to the 12-month postponement of RLWC2021 until 2022.

“As ever the athletes of Rugby League delivered, across the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair competitions – and it was wonderful for us to celebrate a home win in the Wheelchair tournament after that memorable night at Manchester Central.

Congratulations also to Sue Taylor, our RFL Vice President, for her MBE, which is further recognition for Community Rugby League.

“Sue was one of a number of women who were added to the sport’s Roll of Honour last year in recognition of the significant and often underappreciated contribution that women have made to Rugby League over almost 130 years, and Sue is the ultimate unsung hero, having devoted countless hours to the amateur game in Huddersfield and through the British Amateur Rugby League Association.”

Of the four members of England’s Wheelchair Rugby League squad who have been recognised, Johnson added:

“It is a measure of the impact made by Wheelchair Rugby League during the World Cup that four members of the England squad have been included.

“It is a reward for the excellence they showed during the World Cup tournament – but also for the sacrifices they have made in their commitment to Wheelchair Rugby League over many years, including through the specific challenges of the pandemic.

“Tom Halliwell OBE and Seb Bechara MBE were outstanding in the Final against France, and throughout the tournament – Tom providing inspirational leadership of great maturity, in addition to scoring the crucial match-winning try, while Seb’s consistent brilliance was recognised with the Wheelchair Golden Boot award as the world’s leading player.

“James Simpson MBE was an official ambassador for RLWC2021 having embraced Wheelchair Rugby League for almost a decade following the life-changing injuries he suffered serving the country in Afghanistan, and performed that ambassadorial role with huge distinction.

“Tom Coyd MBE has been an inspirational head coach for the group at a remarkably young age, and it is fitting that he now joins his father, Martin Coyd OBE, in being recognised – Martin having received his OBE nine years ago for his role in the early development of Wheelchair Rugby League and also in the lifting of the ban on our sport being played in the Armed Forces, and continuing to play a key role in the ongoing success story of the Wheelchair game, as well as at the Medway Dragons community club.”

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