Courtesy of North Wales Weekly News
Hockey gladiators get on their bikes
by Dave Bettley
A group of sportsmen aiming to compete at the biggest event of its kind in the world will swap eight wheels for two later this month in a bid to raise funds towards their journey of a lifetime.
The eight members of Rhyl Renegades Inline Hockey Club will embark on a marathon sponsored bike ride to assist with their quest to enter the North American Roller Hockey Championships World Finals in Toronto, Ontario this June.
The Renegades, selected as Wales’ first and only representatives at these prestigious finals, will tackle a 108-mile continuous bike ride from Chester to Holyhead on Sunday, February 24, which will take an estimated seven and a half hours to complete.
“We hope to raise enough funds to make this opportunity of a lifetime possible, and fly the flag for Wales and Great Britain in the biggest and best event of its kind in the world,” said Renegades forward Callum Roberts.
Rhyl IHC were formed two years ago, on foundations of over 10 years with aspirations of being Wales’ finest, competing at top UK level and also elite level international competitions.
Their players come from all over North Wales, an amalgamation of the region’s now extinct most successful clubs such as St Asaph and Trearddur Bay.
Goalkeeper Leigh Shepherd hails from Criccieth, defenders Matt Batterbee, Morgan Porter and forward Jake Porter from Rhyl, defenders Martyn and Simon Pilkington from Prestatyn, forwards Aron Owen and Brad Knight from Trearddur Bay and Roberts is from Conwy.
Members have been selected several times to represent both Wales and Great Britain in global and European competition, and have several national and international honours to their names.
In their first season together they were crowned GBHI North Wales Senior Cup and League Champions. They also surpassed all expectations and finished a close second in the Premier Division of the National Inline Hockey League.
“As a result of this excellent first season together, and all our hard work we have put into training and travelling to attend games and tournaments all over the UK, we were selected as Wales’ first ever, and only entry into the highly prestigious Major League Roller Hockey Europe Division,” added Roberts. “This is a semi-professional league where we tested our abilities against Europe’s finest.”
Following a successful MLRH Europe campaign Rhyl Renegades were invited to the MLRH ‘Jeux D’hiver’ Winter Games in Rouen, France. The team did well, but more notably, Jake Porter was top scorer in the competition and his brother Morgan was named Playmaker of the Tournament.
Six Renegades were recently selected to represent the Welsh 10-man regional team for international competition – Shepherd, Morgan Porter, Batterbee, Owen, Jake Porter and Roberts.
Now comes the massive opportunity to compete in Toronto.
Roberts has been selected to play at this tournament three times before with UK representative teams and elite level Toronto club York Triumph.
The free-scoring forward was also named Senior Sportsman of the Year at the 2012 Conwy Sports Awards in Llandudno last November.
“I feel this is a landmark and a great step forward for Welsh hockey, being the first Welsh team to be selected for the biggest event of its kind in the world,” he said.
“We’ve come a long way in two years and it’s testament to the effort and willingness to learn the guys have put in. I hope we can find the funds to go.”
Anyone who can help with sponsorship should contact Callum Roberts at [email protected].