To mark the 20th anniversary of their foundation Coventry Bears had the privilege to play host to the current Rugby League Premiership Champions, Leeds Rhinos for a Friday evening pre-season match at the Butts Lane Stadium, Coventry.
The evening began with a celebration dinner followed by a fascinating and informative question and answer session with Gary Hetherington, CEO of Leeds Rhinos and hosted by Solihull Brother Michael Shires, who is Vice Chairman of Coventry Bears.
The ensuing match was watched by an enthusiastic record crowd of 1300 including a vociferous contingent from Leeds.
The Bears play in the semi-professional Kingstone Press League 1, which is effectively League 3 of the Rugby League and despite putting up a brave showing, the gulf in class was very evident and let’s just say that the Bears came second.
Solihull Circle has become a regular attendee at Bears games and are already booked in for the match against fallen rugby league giants, Bradford Bulls, at the end of June.
Solihull Circle has been raising money for the Chengeta School Project in Zimbabwe for many years and during his presidential year Brother Bill Rawson was no exception.
The charity was founded in 2007 by a family and Brothers Jim and Peter Noonan to build a school adjacent to the Chengeta Safari Park for local children. An abandoned tobacco farm with derelict sheds was acquired, and work began.
Now, 11 years later, they have 16 classrooms, a multi-purpose room with stage for assemblies and a kitchen. They have their own well which gives them a plentiful supply of water, a water tower, 14 teacher cottages and a football pitch. The primary section teaches 350 children and the secondary 350-400 and they provide a midday meal for all.
How have they done this? Amongst other things Jim and Peter have worked almost full-time decorating, gardening and doing almost any type of work where all proceeds have gone to the school. They have undertaken sponsored long-distance walks and given talks to local schools. With the help of a similar group of friends in Holland they have raised a staggering half a million US Dollars.
Solihull Circle has helped in a small way and Bill’s presidential charity last year raised £1640.
Solihull Circle took a family party around St. George’s Park, the home of England’s 24 national teams.
Opened in 2012 and set in a secure location across 330 acres of Staffordshire countryside the £105million complex boasts a range of outstanding training pitches [indoor and outdoor], a state-of-the-art performance centre, a four-star Hilton hotel as well as an outdoor team building facility.
There are 13 outdoor pitches which include a Wembley replica pitch, 5 floodlit pitches, 5 pitches with undersoil heating, 4 natural grass pitches, 3 artificial pitches, 6 hybrid pitches [artificial and grass stitched] and a dedicated pitch for the blind.
The indoor section has a full-sized 3G FIFA 2-star standard pitch, a Futsal sports hall, 7 changing rooms and a 3-lane 60 metre sprint track.
Sports science and performance is an integral part of the operation and the 25,000 square feet of world leading technology and apparatus includes a strength and conditioning gym, physiotherapy area, rehabilitation gym, human performance lab and hydrotherapy area.
The equipment must to be seen to be believed and on the day of the visit Andy Murray was due to arrive to continue his rehabilitation following his hip surgery.
The complex houses 180 full time FA staff and the party were shown the lecture theatre where Gareth Southgate and England players are interviewed by the press and television.
The tour is a major eye opener into the life of international players of both sexes and ages and a window on the life of international athletes. An excellent lunch at the Hilton Hotel ended a most interesting and highly recommended visit. The event was organised by avid football fan Chris Freville.