Former North Derbyshire Chargers junior Lee Sanders gave a clear demonstration of the performance pathways that are open to young players in the region, as he starred for England in Sunday’s Student World Cup final at Headingley.
Sanders was a promising young sportsman when he joined the Chargers under-16s squad in 2008.
Under the guidance of the club’s experienced coaching staff, he was quickly placed on a performance pathway that included regional representative honours and a professional contract from Sheffield Eagles.
But his five-year rugby league odyssey reached its high point when he turned in an industrious 80-minute performance as England ran the reigning world champions ragged before eventually succumbing to a 26-16 defeat.
Sanders was joined in the eight-team tournament by current Chargers winger Alasdair McDougall-Stone who was part of the Scotland side that took on New Zealand, Russia, South Africa and the eventual winners, Australia.
And, according to Chargers head coach Rob Potts, who helped establish the club in 2008 whilst teaching at Eckington School, rugby league offers a myriad of opportunities to talented young athletes in the region.
He said: “In the last five years we’ve had numerous players awarded scholarships from professional clubs, including Sheffield Eagles.
“We’ve also had lads selected for representative sides to tour places like Serbia and France, whilst another of our former juniors, Sam Hull, earned a place in the Great Britain U18s squad, was awarded a pro contract with Sheffield Eagles and next year will be playing in Australia for a NRL feeder club.
“We’ve got a team of experienced and extremely committed coaches and support staff and I think we’ve proven consistently in the past five years that, if lads arrive with the right mentality, we can help place them on a successful pathway in the sport of rugby league.”
This message was underlined by Sanders, who has just completed a degree at Sheffield Hallam University and is currently contracted to Sheffield Eagles RLFC.
“I owe a big debt to the Chargers,” said Sanders who grew up in Clowne, just a stone’s throw from the Chargers’ base at Creswell.
“The semi final (against New Zealand) was an unbelievable night. The whole experience has been incredible.”
The Chargers operates a summer season for teams ranging from Primary Rugby League (U8s) to open age and welcomes players of all ages and abilities.
For more information, contact Chargers chairman Ged Connolly-Thompson on 07946 359060.