The annual dinner, which was a celebration of ten years of BISSA, took on a completely different format this year which made for a superb and entertaining evening.
The setting was the Ron Earnshaw Lounge at the Loverugbyleague.com stadium, which was set out beautifully with ten tables, each one seating ten people. Each table had a year number on (2003 to 20013) and each place setting had the outer cover of a programme from that particular year, which brought back memories of the teams playing at the time. Colin Bottomley, BISSA chairman had instigated and organised this, amongst other initiatives, and his excellent tireless work for BISSA does not go unnoticed. The room had been prepared by an army of volunteers which were mentioned in the opening speeches. Thanks were given to Stuart Hull, Paul Harrison, Billy Blunden, Sam Haigh, Paul Regan and John Earnshaw for their efforts in preparing the room. (Thanks must go to the clearing up efforts of Jonathan Hooley on the Saturday morning too). An extremely generous donation from Pete Lynch meant that around the room were replica shirts, one from each of the past ten years, which were to be sold off at the end of the night.
So with the hard working bar staff in place, the evening began. Prior to sitting down at the tables several of the playing squad made a brief appearance in the bar following their training session.
An added bonus to the evening was that the price had been reduced by ten pounds from previous years to just £20. The result of this was that there were no guest speakers or guest MC. However, this in no way, made the evening any less memorable. The price cut though meant that there was no lack of guests wanting to be part of the celebrations (apologies to those people on the waiting list who could not be accommodated).
Official proceedings began with in-house Master of Ceremonies, director John Miller. He commented on the refurbished lounge and thanked people for their efforts. John went on to say that since BISSA was formed ten years ago the game of rugby league had changed vastly. It was now much faster and tougher and a lot more competitive. The great efforts of both the Supporters club and BISSA were acknowledged, and the fact that the BISSA dinner was usually a fund-raiser but this evening was more a celebration of ten years. He went on to speak about the great runs in playoff games when Gary Thornton was Coach, and winning the Northern Rail Cup Final under Karl Harrison in 2010. This led him onto the Grand Final, led by Coach John Kear, last year with the exciting games in the play-offs which resulted in golden points. Colin and the BISSA committee were thanked for their fundraising efforts.
John introduced Colin Bottomley who echoed John’s thanks for those involved in setting up the room for the evening. He went on to thank Chris Carr who was catering for the event, saying this was a ‘first’ for the club hosting such an event. He thanked the club and staff for allowing the event to take place and said that all fund raising events were 100% supported which showed that many people have Batley RLFC at heart. He praised the Supporters Club for their efforts and went on to reiterate that by having the Annual Dinner at the club, all bar profits would be an added bonus for the club rather than having the dinner at a different venue. Colin went on to say that with all organisations the club and BISSA had had ups and downs. The BISSA committee was started by Gary Coyle and there had been changes in its membership over the years. He thanks committee members past and present and also the many people who donate to BISSA in various ways. The following events were mentioned; Family Race Night on 14th June, and a trip to the Super League Grand Final in October. Colin mentioned the Derek Almond trophy which in the past had been presented at the Supporters Club evenings. There is also now the ‘BISSA Hall of Fame’, which this year was awarded to Fred Moland, who had been on the committee since its inception and had been an excellent treasurer throughout those years. Danny Maun presented Fred with a glass decanter and bottle of whiskey as a memento of his services to BISSA
Following a heads and tails session, for which Fred had provided questions; Chris’s team began serving the starters of either prawn cocktail or home-made soup. The main course was a carvery with roast beef, roast ham or steak and potato pie (and it was well worth the wait!). Desserts followed, either lemon cheesecake or apple crumble. Once again Chris must be applauded for the delicious meal.
After the meal the 50/50 draw took place, where guests had put £5.00 into an envelope and one lucky winner was drawn out. The prize of £230 was won by a gentleman who very generously donated the cash back to BISSA.
The following item caused great hilarity around the room. John Miller stated that Bruce Forsyth had been hoping to attend to host a game of ‘play your card right’ (a popular TV game show from the 1980s). However ‘Brucie’ had been waylaid and so his twin brother was standing in for him (AKA Kevin Nicholas). The game began with Brucie introducing his ‘dolly dealers’, Jonny Campbell and Alex Walmsley. The contestants who were drawn out all took the game with great sportsmanship, and the audience were almost crying with laughter at times!
An auction followed where generous donations were made to items which had also been donated.
The highlight of the evening was the announcement of the BISSA dream team. In the previous weeks there had been voting taking place from a list of players from the past ten years and the result was finally announced. The players were introduced in turn with some of their statistics of appearances and points scored. Craig Lingard was first to receive a special framed certificate naming him as full back in the ‘Dream Team’. Jermaine McGilvery was unable to attend due to him playing for Huddersfield Giants in London. Shad Royston was also unable to attend (due to him being in Australia!) However he sent an email to Colin stating his pleasure at receiving the award, saying it was an honour, and he had fond memories of his time at Batley. Danny Maun accepted his award very graciously and spoke with passion of his time at Batley. Jonny Campbell stated that Danny had been his role model when he first took an interest him as a young boy. Paul Handforth spoke about Batley as a special club and one which he cared about. Barry Eaton was full of praise for the club but also for BISSA which he said had inspired other clubs to start similar organisations. Alex Walmsley continued the theme of naming Batley as a great place to play and Kris Lythe mentioned the family atmosphere at the club. Current captain Byron Smith said that the fact that players had to fight for their place in the team could only be a good thing. Dane Manning thanked BISSA for his award, and Sean Richardson also mentioned that Batley was a special place to play. Ash Lindsey was the final player of the dream team to be announced and thanked everyone in his own inimitable way! An email from Gary Thornton acknowledged the work which BISSA does and stated that he would have loved to have this particular set of players all together in 2009!
The fact that all these players had all attended the evening was testimony indeed that Batley Bulldogs has to be one of the best clubs in rugby league.
Thanks must go to ALL those people who work tirelessly for club in whatever role, from directors to unpaid volunteers. In any organisation there are good and bad times. Sometimes you have to experience the low times to appreciate what the good times feel like. Many Bulldogs supporters have been attending games for many many years (indeed a guest at the dinner is in his 80th year of supporting, first attending at the age of eight). We now have families who bring much younger children to the games, mere babes in arms. There are organisations such as Batley Boys which is keeping the game of rugby league alive in the area, and women’s rugby which is becoming increasingly popular. These, along with the charity links the club has and the recently appointed chaplain demonstrate that Batley Bulldogs Rugby League Football Club is a fully committed community club. Long may this continue, and I, for one, am proud to be a supporter at Batley. Onward and upward. Keep the faith!
Janet Virr, BISSA secretary