[slideshow]The Hunslet Club has welcomed back its most famous former member – England rugby union world cup winner Jason Robinson.
The winger/full back, who was brought up in Beeston, Hunslet and Belle Isle, began playing rugby as a child at the club in Hillidge Road and then Hunslet Parkside before starting his rugby league career in 1991 at Hunslet Hawks. He later moved into rugby union.
Robinson officially opened new outdoor changing facilities, a youth games zone and an extended workshop to teach teenage car and bike mechanic courses. He signed autographs for dozens of local youngsters and thanked the club for making a big difference in his life.
Robinson said he owed much to the people who supported him at the club as a child and said the organisation gave young boys and girls hope:
“[Living] in the flats it was easy to think I was never going to do anything in life, but this is where it all started for me. I have been all over the world, played in world cup finals and even had tea with the Queen.
“It seems a long time since I was last here – I was a member here some 30 years ago, which makes me feel really old! I used to live over the road in the flats and used to come here to hang around and play games. This was my first rugby league club and I have a picture of me as under 11s captain which I’m very proud of.
“I met so many good people here and it’s nice to be back to see all the good work that has been going on. A lot of people have worked tirelessly over the years, a lot of clubs seem to go downhill but this one just keeps growing.”
Robinson, who retired from rugby earlier this year, vowed to return to the club again soon.
Earlier in the day, Robinson had tweeted:
“Looking forward to going back to
@HunsletClub later today to open new facilities! A big THANKYOU from one of those kids you cared to help!!”
Local youngster Jack Briggs said Robinson was a hero and someone who he looked up to. Jack said:
“I’m looking forward to getting his autograph. I’d like to be him.”
The club provides a wide ranging evening and weekend programme of youth based activities including football, drama, boxing, Irish dance, cheerleading, gymnastics, street dance and other leisure activities for over 500 young people per week to help them reach their full potential.
The club also runs courses leading to accredited vocational qualifications in vehicle maintenance, construction, hair and beauty, sport, ICT, key skills, catering, dance and music production for 14 to 16 year olds.