Freeman Kevin proud to be part of somewhere special

KEVIN Sinfield may be an honorary freeman of Oldham – but to him, he is part of somewhere more special.

Something that has kept the kid who played at Waterhead ARLFC and who sat on the touchline at the town’s rugby league team as a ballboy at home.

The 13-a-side legend, now England rugby union’s defence coach, received only the 27th such honour given out by the borough, the highest possible, in a ceremony at the Civic Centre.

While sporting achievements alone – seven Super League titles, two Challenge Cups and three World Club Challenge crowns with Leeds Rhinos – may have been enough, his mammoth fundraising efforts sealed his status.

Kevin Sinfield OBE at the ceremony in Oldham. Image by Gemma Carter

Raising more than £7 million for motor neurone disease charities in the name of pal and former team-mate Rob Burrow with three challenges – seven marathons in seven days, running 101 miles in 24 hours and seven ultra marathons in seven days from Murrayfield in Edinburgh to Manchester United’s Old Trafford – put the Grasscroft-based star on that exalted pedestal.

He joined Sir Winston Churchill, suffragists, and Olympic gold medal winners on the roll of honour while being watched by his family and other luminaries, including another member, Frank Rothwell.

Members of Saddleworth Rangers, where he passed on tips by helping out coaching and where son Jack, who is now following in his father’s footsteps at Headingley, developed also looked on.

But the man himself, known as ‘Sir Kev’ by Leeds fans, insists what is around him is enough.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com – 19/11/2022 – Rugby League – Rugby League World Cup 2021 Final – Australia v Samoa – Old Trafford, Manchester, England – Kevin Sinfield arrives at Old Trafford after his 7 ultra marathons in 7 days.

Sinfield said: “I like the greenery. I certainly like it up in Saddleworth but I spent a lot of time in the town centre when I was a kid and have fond memories.

“But the thing that keeps me here the most is the people. It’s friends and family. They keep you grounded, they tell you exactly what they want to say to you.

“However, I love their honesty and humour too. We really like where we live and on the last leg of the last challenge, it meant a lot to come through Oldham.

“There was a temptation to go right through Saddleworth and Grasscroft but actually I’m glad we went the way we went. The support was immense and the weather helped but I was proud running through Oldham that day.

“I’m proud at every opportunity to bang the drum about the great town we live in.

“I remember spending a lot of time in the town centre when I was a kid, especially in the school holidays going to the swimming baths, but the thought of this never came into my mind.

“I just wanted tom play rugby and loved playing at Waterhead. You don’t hear off these things that often, so to be given one is incredibly special.

“It’s really special to get this honour and it was incredible to have family there. It’s a really nice thing to be awarded and it was really nice to be in my home town, where I grew up and where I live, to receive it.

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com – 30/10/2013 – Rugby League – Rugby League World Cup – England Team Group – Loughborough, England – Community Teams – Kevin Sinfield (Waterhead)

“You have to pinch yourself a little bit but I bring it back to being part of an incredible team. It’s very kind that I’m the one with the name on the plaque but it’s much bigger than that, it’s for the whole team

“I didn’t quite know what to expect. I was made an honorary freeman of Leeds a couple of months ago but couldn’t attend that event.

“So this was a new experience.”

Sinfield may have notched up three epic athletic feats but he already has one more booked in – running the Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon on May 14 and if he is feeling OK, pushing Rob around the course.

Kevin with Saddleworth Independent’s Gary Carter

Already that is the third biggest such event in the UK with more than 12,000 people signing up to take part.

And what he has done for others was saluted by the town’s councillors, with leader Amanda Chadderton saying: “We all wish we had friends like Kevin Sinfield and we should all aspire to be a friend like Kevin.”

Saddleworth’s representatives also paid fond tribute to one of their own, with Luke Lancaster adding: “As a superb sportsman alone, Kevin Sinfield would more than merit being an honorary freeman of our borough.

“However, we all know that there is so much more to the man than simply his sporting prowess in that famous number 13 jersey.

“His heroic fundraising for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and his brotherly bond with Rob Burrow has been a story of genuine national significance and has captured hearts all across our United Kingdom.

“I was lucky enough to be amongst the sixty odd thousand people inside Old Trafford for the Rugby League World Cup Final last November and that moment when Kevin Sinfield and his team entered on to the pitch after having covered 300 miles in the week beforehand, was truly magical.

“I expect that every single spectator will remember that moment for an awfully long time.

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com – 01/12/2020 – Rugby League – Kevin Sinfield 7 in 7 – Saddleworth, Greater Manchester, England – Kevin Sinfield MBE on day 1 of his seven marathons in seven days fundraising challenge in support of his former Leeds Rhinos team-mate Rob Burrow and the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MND).

“Despite now deservedly receiving wide recognition, Kevin Sinfield has remained humble. He lives only a few miles from here in Grasscroft and has leant his professional expertise to the stars of tomorrow at Saddleworth Rangers.

“He has always spoken warmly of his sporting start at Waterhead, his support of Oldham Athletic, and his earlier education at both Saddleworth School, where he was once Head Boy, and Oldham Sixth Form College.

“He is proud of his roots in our borough and Oldham natives are proud to call him one of our own too.”

With three challenges done, an obvious question is ‘Will there be another?’

Sinfield has mentioned more than enough times that Rocky IV is his favourite of that film franchise, but there are now other things to consider – rugby union’s World Cup in September and October.

He said: “There could potentially be another one.

“I’ve mentioned Rocky IV, so I’ve got an idea but it’s quite a big year with the World Cup.

“We’ve certainly got some plans but at the minute they’re being held back.

“But I don’t want any recognition. I want all the focus to be in the MND community and the wonderful charities that do what they do.”

One Reply to “Freeman Kevin proud to be part of somewhere special”

  1. Fully deserved honour for a fantastic bloke with fantastic achievements. Just a pity rugby league couldn’t find a place for him.

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