It’s now just a year until the Rugby League World Cup kicks off on home soil and Preston will be one of many North West hosts opening their doors to the games.
The city will act as a base for the Wales squad with facilities on offer from a range of local partners, including the University of Central Lancashire.
Matchday spectacles are also aplenty in the region with Liverpool, Manchester, St Helens, Warrington, and Wigan/Leigh all hosting games.
Furthermore, the tournament will be a ground-breaking first, hosting the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions simultaneously.
One of those fundamental to Preston delivering a successful bid is Councillor Peter Kelly – who acts as a Cabinet member for Culture, Leisure and Sport.
Kelly, 53, has been part of the Cabinet for four years and a Councillor for six, and he spoke to The Gazette of his excitement in helping Preston’s winning bid.
He said: “I’m pretty pumped.
“The bidding process was quite intense as all over areas are actually hosting a match, so when we bid, we bid on developing the game of Rugby League in Preston.”
The application was put into practice and submitted back in August 2018 and vital parts of the plan included the availability and potential dual use of Preston North End’s Deepdale Stadium.
There was also a heavy emphasis on progressing the sport in local communities.
Such a focus on the game at grassroots level comes as Preston are one of the big name hosts not to have a Rugby League side in the area.
In turn, steps were made to help deliver this, such as Preston North End appointing a Rugby League Development Officer through its Community and Education Trust.
Local Rugby Union side Preston Grasshoppers have also jumped on board the effort as well.
It’s the potential significance of hosting Wales that fills Kelly with hope for future partnerships though.
“We were really pleased (to be successful) and when we found out we had the Welsh team, it felt even better,” said Kelly.
“We can form local relationships with them for the training camp and obviously carry those on after the World Cup has gone.”
This isn’t the first time Preston have made these strides, previously hosting the Irish team the last time the World Cup was hosted in England back in 2013.
Kelly’s home nation Australia were the eventual winners seven years ago and he holds dear a rich love of Rugby League and sport in general.
The 53-year-old spent his youth near Sydney, admiring and supporting the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, and also spent time watching the Parramatta Eels as he moved to the Western Suburbs.
He is following of activities back in Australia is now from afar, nevertheless, like many others worldwide, sport on his doorstep is out of bounds for spectators due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However alarming the effects of the virus for some events are – both in the short term and long term – Kelly is not worried about the pandemic affecting the planning of next Autumn’s tournament.
He said: “We are carrying on with the fact that the games will go ahead with no indication of them not and until we hear differently we just carry on as normal.”
Over a month’s worth of action kicks off on 23 October, 2021 in Newcastle as England’s men host Samoa.
The ballot opened at 9am on Friday 23rd October and you can purchase tickets here.