It’s a new era for Rugby League as the organisers of the game introduce an exciting promotion and relegation season, but it’s also a new era for Men United with a new campaign and a growing number of pubs supporting our movement. Not least The Cricketers Arms in Widnes, a stone’s throw away from the Widnes Vikings stadium, where we and the club and hosted a very special new season opener press conference on Tuesday (3 February).
Ahead of the Vikings’ first new season match against neighbouring rivals, Wigan Warriors, fans’ favourite, The Cricketers Arms (‘Leggies’) was rebranded as The Men United Arms. The first Super League match of the season is live on Sky Sports tonight (Thursday 5 February).
In a break from the norm, Widnes Vikings head coach Denis Betts and captain Kev Brown met their Wigan counterparts Shaun Wane and Josh Charnley in the pub. The sport’s media gathered to hear them look ahead to the season opener and celebrate the Vikings’ partnership with Prostate Cancer UK.
Shaun Wane, Wigan Warriors head coach
‘Leggies’ is the second pub to take on the title of The Men United Arms. Last week we launched our Men United, Keeping Friendships Alive campaign from a central London pub. The campaign encourages men to spend time with their friends, to talk to each other and to raise awareness of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer survivor and Sky Sports anchor Eddie Hemmings joined his friend and long-time colleague Bill Arthur in the pub to celebrate the massive strides rugby league is making to raise the profile of the cause. Bill, a stalwart of Sky’s coverage of rugby league, was also the man who kicked off of our involvement in the sport.
Sky Sports' Eddie Hemmings and Bill Arthur
Eddie said: “Bill and I are here because we are both survivors of prostate cancer. The Men United Arms in Widnes is fantastic and it’s brilliant to be here. What I have noticed today is that the coaches, the Chairman, the Chief Executive of the game, people who matter in rugby league, all of a sudden they know what this is all about. They know what Men United is all about, what the pin badges are all about.”
Eddie and Bill will both be on point as Sky Sports broadcast the clash between the North West neighbours.
And while Shaun Wane and Denis Betts will be rivals come kick-off, at The Men United Arms they talked of their long-standing off-field friendship and the need to educate their mates about prostate cancer.
“I think it’s a great initiative. It’s something very important for me to support,” said Wane, the Wigan Warriors coach. “I’m a typical male who would be embarrassed to go to the doctors but the fact is that we need to change our attitude and that’s the message I will be delivering to my friends and players.”
Vikings' Denis Betts and Brian O'Connor
His opposite number Betts added: “As a middle-aged man coming into the stage of life when this type of cancer is really relevant, I need to make sure that I’m OK, and I need to get my friends and people I care about to know too. We will be working to raise awareness of the disease and we will be paying a lot of attention to our partnership with Prostate Cancer UK.”
Vikings skipper Kevin Brown set off-field rivalries aside to learn about the disease, noting: “Today has been brilliant and I have learnt a lot. Statistics show that 1 in 8 men get prostate cancer and every hour someone dies from the disease. On Thursday we will be smashing each other and really ripping in to try and get one over on each other’s clubs but today but we want to try and be friends and help each other out off the field."
Wigan star Charnley added: “As a man it’s not every day you talk to your mates about your health. I think it’s something that we need to do more of. It’s great that Widnes and Wigan, two rival teams, can come together to support Men United’s drive to keep friendships alive.
The Men United Arms is open for business until closing time on Sunday. Fans, patrons and passers-by can pop in and check out the new look, have a drink, talk to mates and pick up a leaflet. They can also get a ‘Man of Men’ pin badge to show support for Prostate Cancer UK.
Widnes Vikings’ official Prostate Cancer UK ‘Chogo’ (charity logo) is available for £5 from the Vikings Superstore. Add one to your home or away shirt and help us beat prostate cancer.
Join us at Men United and do something great together with your mates to beat prostate cancer.