It is almost exactly one year since Kate Middleton was announced as Patron of the Rugby Football League. And the Princess of Wales has been cheering on the sport both publicly and privately since taking on her position.
Today, Kate hosted a reception for the England Wheelchair Rugby League team in recognition of their success in the Rugby League World Cup. The team became world champions in November after a dramatic final match against France. And as Kate congratulated them, she shared how she had cheered them on while watching on television with her children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.
“She’s got a fantastically warm aura; really engaging and really knowledgable about the sport,” the team’s head coach Tom Coyd told Town & Country following the reception at Hampton Court Palace. Describing the Princess as a “great Patron for Rugby League and sport in the UK,” he told how she recounted watching their November success on TV. “She was saying how her children were totally captured by the whole program. It was brilliant telly because the game went right down to the wire.”
He added about Wheelchair Rugby League, “It’s totally inclusive, You can play it whether you’re in a wheelchair, disabled or not disabled. We’ve got four people in our squad who are not disabled at all but they’ve represented England in a wheelchair sport. And it’s the only sport in the world where they can do that.”
Player Sebastien Bechara described how the win has given them a “massive platform” to help grow the sport and be part of events such as today’s. “It’s just amazing,” he said.
“It’s great to see how she knew what she was talking about,” he said of Kate. “She had watched the game with her kids. She was really happy and involved with it and she was really keen on trying it one day with her children. It just filled me with joy to see how she was really interested in it.”
Sebastien added, “I’ve been in the sport for a long time and it’s pretty incredible. We’ve always been one of those sports that no-one watches, no-one talks about…This year it’s been incredible…You can be the average person at home or the Princess of Wales. They love the sport and find it really entertaining which is great for us a players to see that people are actually starting to see what it’s like, it’s an amazing sport.”
Kate also spoke with James Simpson, who announced his retirement from Wheelchair Rugby League this month after a decade in the sport. “It’s been incredible, it’s been amazing,” he told Town & Country. “I’ve been playing this game for 10 years and we started off six teams in the shadows in sports halls, nobody really knew about us. The world cup we had last year, we had 1.5 million watching the final, 4,500 watching there. And to know that we had members of the royal family watching the game, to know that they took an interest in watching us play, it kind of gives you that feeling where you’re on this new level that we’ve never been on before where the country is watching at every level, watching us perform and backing us as an international side. It makes you feel brilliant that all the work you have put in since day one has paid off.”
He said of his discussion with the Princess, “She was asking us about the league and the grassroots and we said how rugby league is a very family sport, it’s very grassroots and it’s very communities coming together to play. And Wheelchair Rugby League is the epitome of that with disabled and non disabled family members playing together.”
Kate was announced as Patron of the Rugby Football League and Rugby Football Union on February 2, 2022. Both roles were previously held by Prince Harry before he stepped back from royal life. “These new patronages, which have been given to The Duchess by Her Majesty The Queen, closely align with Her Royal Highness’ longstanding passion for sport and the lifelong benefits it can provide, both within our communities and on an individual level,” Kensington Palace said in a statement at the time.
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