His Royal Highness Prince Harry carried out his first official engagement as patron of the Rugby Football League this afternoon (Thursday, July 6), attending a Sky Try Rugby League Festival at Headingley Carnegie Stadium in Leeds.
Following Her Majesty, The Queen’s announcement in December 2016 that she would be standing down from the role, Prince Harry’s introduction to the sport as the new patron was to witness around 100 local children from neighbouring primary schools take part in development sessions and mini-games.
Accompanied by Rugby Football League Rugby Director, Kevin Sinfield MBE, Prince Harry was introduced to children involved with the event and the Sky Try programme; England Assistant Coach, Paul Sculthorpe MBE; England and Wigan Warriors Captain, Sean O’Loughlin; England and Leeds Rhinos’ Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall and coaches from the Leeds Rhinos Foundation who led the session alongside Leeds Rhinos Captain Danny McGuire and Leeds Rhinos player Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
The Prince meets children playing in the Sky Try programme.
Prince Harry chats to Kevin Sinfield and Sean O'Loughlin.
The Sky Try Rugby League Festival was attended by around 100 children from seven primary schools in the Leeds area. Over the past few weeks, the schools have received high-quality Rugby League sessions from qualified coaches from the Leeds Rhinos Foundation. Attendance at the festival was a culmination of this work, giving children the opportunity to showcase their skills and play on a pitch their heroes play on.
Rugby Football League Chief Executive, Nigel Wood, said: "It was a pleasure to welcome Prince Harry to today's Sky Try Festival for his first official engagement as our patron. We are delighted he was able to experience one of these great festivals first hand and his enthusiasm and interest in the game and the people he met was clear for all to see."
Prince Harry, who stayed on the pitch talking to children and players for around an hour, discussed a number of subjects including England's chances at the upcoming Rugby League World Cup and the success of the Sky Try Programme.
Rugby Football League Rugby Director, Kevin Sinfield MBE, said: “I’m sure today’s Sky Try Festival delivered a very positive experience for our new patron, Prince Harry.
“Everybody who attended today played their part in showing him what an amazing sport Rugby League is and how inclusive we are. The Sky Try programme offers amazing opportunities to new players across the country - the children here not only got to play at a professional ground but meet Prince Harry, too.
“He was very impressed with the hard work everyone is doing in the sport to reach out to new players and new supporters as we aim to grow the game.
“Showing Prince Harry around Headingley Carnegie Stadium and seeing it buzzing with players from local primary schools, England and Leeds Rhinos was a great way to welcome him to the game.”
England and Wigan Warriors Captain, Sean O’Loughlin, added: “Having Prince Harry as patron of the Rugby Football League is great for the sport and you could clearly see today that he enjoyed his time at the Sky Try Festival.
“He’s a big sports fan and was definitely in his preferred environment when out on the field with the children and players. There was plenty of skill on show at Headingley which impressed him and the coaches.”