Rhinos and Bulls join forces to increase awareness and participation in Rugby League in West Yorkshire

Testimonial game Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Rob Burrow at Headingley

Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls have joined forces to create a new, powerful partnership promoting rugby league and netball to the young people of one of the largest and fastest growing conurbations in the UK.

Two decades ago, Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls were the hottest ticket in town when the two rivals met on the field in fiercely contested derbies but now the two teams are coming together for the good of their respective communities.

The initiative will focus on taking both sports to young people of the region, together with a number of diversity, equality and sustainability programmes and messages.

The three-year project has been driven by Gary Hetherington and Nigel Wood, and is aimed to create a project that can benefit from extra resources and build on the work done over last seven years through the Sky Try project. Sky Try was launched in 2015, with the aim of reaching over 100,000 people of all ages each year to increase the number of people regularly involved in community clubs or as spectators and viewers. With the Sky Try funding now having concluded, the Rhinos and Bulls have formed an innovative partnership to continue that work but also developed the many successes even further over the next three years. 

The club’s two Charitable Foundations, supported by a number of businesses, will provide opportunities for Women and Girls, for Masters, for Touch ‘n’ Tag, for Rugby League and Netball taster sessions with Headingley and Odsal hosting festivals during the summer as a culmination of the initiative.

Leeds Rhinos’ Chief Executive Gary Hetherington said:

“Fans of both clubs will remember fondly the rivalry we had a number of years ago when we were selling out Headingley and Odsal on a regular basis for our clashes. More recently, a spirit of camaraderie was even more evident when Bulls fans joined our own Rhinos fans to support Rob Burrow back at the start of the 2020 season. The aim of our new community engagement project is to combine our efforts and expertise to introduce boys, girls, men and women to Rugby League many of whom have not seen a path to the game in the past. 

“Rugby League offers more opportunities now than ever before to get involved whether that is junior rugby for boys and girls, men’s and women’s senior competitions and mixed wheelchair sides plus Physical Disability and Learning Disability teams and Masters Rugby League for older players. Our partnership will be able to give access to all of those options and in addition we are also able to offer even more women’s sport with Yorkshire’s only elite netball team, Rhinos Netball, now playing in the Vitality Super League. 

“But we also need new fans as well and those who come into contact with our Foundations through this project will also get the chance to see live Rugby League at Headingley or Odsal, many for the first time in their lives.

Bradford Chairman Nigel Wood said “The Bulls aspire to become a Super League force again, but as importantly, we are determined to be a club that represents the best in Community and Corporate Social Responsibility. It is at the heart of everything we are trying to achieve. Leeds and Bradford may be great rivals on the field, but off it we believe in similar values; those of pulling together, co-operating and working collaboratively to promote rugby league and our cities. The combined area of Leeds and Bradford totals nearly 1.5 million people and it make great sense to work closely together to cover the region more efficiently and use the power of sport to promote good citizenship.”

As well as the Community Engagement Project, we are delighted to announce Jarrod O’Connor, Muizz Mustapha and Corey Johnson will all join the Bradford Bulls on loan for the start of the Betfred Championship season. 

As well as the community engagement project, Leeds Rhinos will also be loaning three players from their first team squad to the Bulls for the start of the Championship season. Youngsters Jarrod O’Connor, Muizz Mustapha and Corey Johnson will get the chance to gain valuable game time with the Bulls as they push their claims for selection for Richard Agar’s side.

In addition, Bradford Bulls will host Leeds Rhinos at Odsal on Sunday 23rd January, kick off 3pm at Odsal as part of both club’s pre-season schedule.