Rugby League in Yorkshire
Rugby league is Yorkshire born and bred and has developed into one of the most popular and passionate spectator and participation sports in Britain, since the classic northern breakaway from the Rugby Football Union in Huddersfield in 1895. Tough and physically demanding, League is woven into the cultural identity of many Yorkshire communities, but it's also an exciting sport that looks forward, not back, and its popularity is growing season on season.
The sport enjoys fantastic TV coverage on both Sky and the BBC, where audiences have reached 25 million viewers. But everyone can enjoy it live here in Yorkshire.
Yorkshire has seven clubs in the county playing top class rugby league: Bradford Bulls, Castleford Tigers, Huddersfield Giants, Hull FC, Hull KR, Wakefield Wildcats and Leeds Rhinos, meaning that half the teams currently competing in the Super League are from Yorkshire. Leeds and Bradford have been two of the most successful teams since Super League kicked off in 1996.
Rugby League has an excellent reputation as a family game with several generations often attending games together. Children are kept entertained at the various grounds by the teams' mascots as well as specially planned activities aimed at keeping the younger fans happy.
If you're an absolute beginner to the game the rules are easier to pick up than you would think and, once you have got to grips with the basics, working out exactly what's going on is all part of the fun. With 13 players a side, and up to 12 changes allowed per side, things move pretty fast! Home games generally kick off around 8pm on Friday or 3pm on Sundays, for a fast and furious start or finish to the weekend!
Bradford Bulls have been a revelation in the Super League, having enjoyed stunning success including a clean sweep of all the major rugby league honours in 2003, with Super League, the Challenge Cup and the World Club Championship among the spoils. The Bulls also scooped the Super League in 1997, 2001, 2003 and 2005, the Challenge Cup in 2000 and 2003, and the World Club Challenge in 2002, 2004 and 2006.
Bradford Bulls have not been at the top of their form in the last season or two, but are still a massive presence and among the biggest draws in the game. They have a knack of producing great talent, such as current young British superstar Sam Burgess, who recently made a big money move to Australia, and England captain Jamie Peacock, now with the Rhinos.
Bradford Bulls' home, the Provident Stadium (formerly Odsal Stadium), is a multi-sport venue just south of Bradford city centre, which has been their home ground since 1934, and in 1954 saw one of the largest attendances for a rugby game of all time, at over 102,000.
Founder Super League members, Castleford Tigers; enjoy lots of nicknames, and even more success! The club known as 'Cas', 'Cas Tigers' or 'Classy Cas', were also known as 'The Glassblowers', traditionally the trade of many supporters.
But they're not just a pretty name! The Tigers, famous for their attractive and stylish rugby, have won the prestigious Challenge Cup four times, the Yorkshire Cup five times, and twice been crowned National League Champions.
Castleford's top rivalry is against neighbouring Wakefield Wildcats, although they also enjoy fierce competition with Leeds Rhinos, Hull KR and Bradford Bulls, not to mention St Helens from across the border in Lancashire!
The Tigers' home since 1927 has been the appropriately named 'Jungle' on Wheldon Road, a short walk from the town centre, although 'Cas' will soon be found at a new state-of-the-art community sports complex currently in development but due to be ready for new season.
Huddersfield Giants play their home games at the John Smith's Stadium which is shared with Huddersfield Town F.C. The Giants finished 1st in the 2013 league winning the league leaders shield, however they were knocked out in the first round of the play offs.
Huddersfield is also one of the original twenty-two rugby clubs that formed the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895, making them one of the world's first rugby league teams. With a trophy haul of 7 Championships and 6 Challenge Cups they are historically one of the most successful clubs in Rugby League.
Hull FC may have the most unexpected history of all Yorkshire's rugby league clubs, having been originally formed by a group of ex-public schoolboys from York in 1865. Today Hull FC's biggest rivals are the city's other professional team, Hull Kingston Rovers, and their stunning head-to-head encounters play to full houses and make for one of the most passionate fixtures in rugby league.
In 2005 Hull FC reached their most recent high with a last-minute try to grab a glorious one-point victory against mighty Yorkshire rivals Leeds Rhinos in the Challenge Cup final at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. They also reached a Wembley final in 2008.
Hull FC can truly claim to be one of oldest clubs in rugby league, playing at one of the most modern venues, the Kingston Communications Stadium they have shared with the high-flying footballing counterparts Hull City since January 2003.
Hull Kingston Rovers
One of the truly iconic clubs of rugby league, it's not long since Hull Kingston Rovers could lay justifiable claim to be the sport's most famous name. Now 'Hull KR' is right back in the big time.
In 2005 the club won the Northern Rail Cup before being crowned National League Champions in 2006 and storming back to join the elite once again, where many will feel they rightfully belong.
Taking the field in their instantly recognisable white shirts with red bands, 'The Robins' have had a number of grounds in their time but are now well established in their compact 10,000-seater Craven Park Stadium, just off Preston Rd in East Hull.
Leeds Rhinos were the 2011 and 2012 Champions playing in the Stobart Super League Competition (formally Engage). As Leeds' only professional rugby league team, the Rhinos have enjoyed success over recent years having won 6 Championships since 2004 and winning the World Club Challenge at their home ground in 2012. The Club boasts several international players including Kevin Sinfield, Ryan Hall and Jamie Jones-Buchanan and call Headingley Carnegie Stadium, on the outskirts of Leeds, their home.
Rhinos' massive rivals are local Bradford Bulls, and with Castleford, Huddersfield and Wakefield other West Yorkshire opponents, local derbies are never far away.
Leeds Rhinos are the rugby league aristocrats, combining big name signings, with home-produced talent and are supported by one of rugby league's most enduringly popular mascots, Ronnie the Rhino.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, one of the oldest names in rugby league, were originally formed by the members of a church, and enjoy nothing more than the chance to bring local rivals, the Castleford Tigers, to their knees!
Five times Challenge Cup winners and twice champions in the distant past, dubbed by passionate fans simply 'Wakey', 'Trinity', or the 'Wildcats', they have remained among the sport's Super League elite since promotion from National League competition in 1999, and in 2009 enjoyed their best ever season, including entry to the end of season play-offs.
Wakefield Trinity has been at its Belle Vue stadium since 1879, and the 11,000 capacity venue can be easily accessed by bus, train or car.
Rugby League Competitions
Stobart Super League
Super League is Europe's premier professional rugby league club competition, sponsored by Stobart. It comprises fourteen top teams, thirteen English (7 Yorkshire) and one French, though due to the growing popularity of the spectacle, games have also been played in Scotland and Spain.
Super League teams battle it out from February to October, culminating in a play-off series and a sensational end of season Grand Final in front of 70,000-plus spectators.
The Tetley's Challenge Cup
The Tetley's Challenge Cup, rugby league's historic and prestigious international club competition, is the only knock-out tournament of its kind to include teams from all levels of the sport.
It culminates in a showpiece final at Wembley Stadium. Teams come from as far as Russia and France to compete for the honour of being there.
Rugby League World Cup 2013
In 2013 England was host to the RLWC with fixtures being played across the Yorkshire teams' grounds and beyond. England performed heroically, reaching the semi-finals against New Zealand at Wembley and looking like victory was within their grasp before a dying seconds try and conversion from their antipodean rivals snatched a win.
It just goes to show that with rugby league, apart from great action, you never know what to expect!