RUGBY League stars past and present have done their bit by tackling police officers in a 13-hour marathon game to raise funds for Mahdlo Youth Zone.
And it is hoped they have helped raise more than £4,500 for the facility.
Mind you, Inspector Danny Atherton may need every penny to ease his aching muscles and bones after taking part in all 13 games!
Local products and current Super League stars Mark Flanagan and Joe Greenwood teamed up and took on Greater Manchester Police’s finest in the event.
Fifteen officers took part in the GMP team, although even though Inspector Atherton, who helped organise the fundraiser, insisted beforehand, ‘It’s only seven-a-side, so 15 doesn’t sound as bad when it’s seven-a-side!’ he still felt it.
“I ended up playing in all 13 games,” he told the Independent. “
“But the event was really good. We had tons and tons of people through the door – but it was really tough.
“On the Sunday, I was bad. Putting my socks on was tough!
“But the money raised was huge for Mahdlo as it means it can buy new kit and meet more of its running costs.”
Former players including Richard Russell, Barry Eaton, Terry Flanagan, Kevin Sinfield, Iestyn Harris and Barrie McDermott also pulled on their boots in the event, which ran from 7am until 8pm on Saturday, January 26.
Super League referee and Oldham lad Robert Hicks also officiated two of the hour-long touch rugby matches.
But that is not the end of the fundraising. A signed, framed Manchester United shirt, a football signed by Paul Scholes and a rugby ball signed by the squad of Toronto Wolfpack are set to be auctioned at Hotel Football this month.
Insp Atherton, who himself played rugby league for local sides Higginshaw, Shaw Rhinos and Saddleworth Rangers and still plays over-35s masters rugby league, also revealed this event may have a spin-off in the local area.
He added: “A few people who hadn’t played for a while loved it,” he added. “The feedback has been phenomenal.
“So much so, we’re now talking about setting up masters games every month off the back of it. We’ve started something now after they really, really enjoyed it!
“This has been massive for Mahdlo. You can really see the difference in the kids that go there. Prior to that, there was nowhere to go so there were cases of them causing annoyance.
“With something like that coming in, you wonder to yourself, ‘Why wasn’t something like this done before?’
“The original fundraising target was £2,000 but we attracted about £1,300 in sponsorship before the event, so we had to raise it to £2,500 – after counting up on the Monday, we were up to £4,060..
“Even then, we smashed that. I don’t even work in Oldham any more but the love I have for the place means I just have to do something like this.”
The rugby league marathon followed last year’s 24-hour football match at Mahdlo, in which a number of the rugby league players took part.
And there may yet be another long-lasting fundraising event in the future, once Insp Atherton has got the itch again.
“When I did the football match, I said I’d never do something like that again,” he said. “And I feel as bad as I did when I did that.
“But then after a few months I get bored and think I need to do it again.”
Former dual-code Wales international Harris played from 9am-10am, Sinfield and McDermott from noon-1pm and Salford star Flanagan, both Greenwoods – who play for Wigan and Hull KR – and former Salford star Highton all teamed up between 4pm and 5pm.
About 150 players took part and dozens of people came through the door to watch.
Although, Insp Atherton admitted one old face stole the show, just for how big he is.
“The police won a couple of games but then the ‘Salford’ side, which was put together by Mark Flanagan, smashed us,” he said. “They had him, Joe Greenwood and a few lads who played for sides like Rochdale – and we’d played for about 10 hours!
“And just how big is Joe? I think he cast a shadow across the place!
“When I last played for Saddleworth Rangers’ first team about 10 years ago, he would’ve been about 15 and just coming through.
“He’s always been tall but back then he was quite slim – now he’s just a mountain!”