Since the historic first shout of ‘Gerremonside!’ in the 19th century, Rugby League has possessed a fantastic ability to forge lasting memories for everyone involved at every level of the sport.
Few people ever forget the feeling of their first game, either as a player or a spectator, and most fans treasure their own special moment from their association with Rugby League, be it the joy of a Cup final win at Wembley, the relief felt on the day a team avoided relegation or a flash of brilliance from a favourite player.
It is these magical moments that provide much of the glue that holds the Rugby League family together, because so many personal memories come from the shared experience of enjoying the greatest game of all.
Many clubs are now harnessing the power of Rugby League by running Memories Clubs which are having a transformational impact on the lives of older supporters and their families.
Memories Clubs bring together fans and their families to share stories about what makes the game, a club or its player so special: open to all ages, the clubs help bring history to life, are combatting loneliness and realising dramatic changes in the lives of those suffering from dementia.
There are currently around 850,000 people in the UK suffering from dementia, a figure that is set to increase to 2 million by 2051 as an ageing population expands. This year, 225,000 will develop dementia, 60 per cent of whom will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, for which there is no cure.
Rugby League Cares has recently been working with supporters of Dewsbury Rams to establish a Memories Club which meets at Shaw Cross Sharks ARLFC on the second Wednesday of each month.
Run entirely by volunteers, the club provides a focal point for fans to meet up with fellow Dewsbury supporters and ‘guest’ supporters of other local clubs and talk about times past and present. Allan Agar, a member of the Dewsbury team that defeated Leeds in the 1972 Championship final, made a special appearance to help guests reminisce about what was a golden period for the West Yorkshire club.