A fitting tribute to Johnny Walker memory

Johnny Walker excelled as a cross-code rugby player

Johnny Walker excelled as a cross-code rugby player

First published in Sport Wharfedale Observer: Photograph of the Author by , T&A Sports Reporter

Former Otley rugby union and Cougars rugby league star Johnny Walker will be remembered on Friday.

The inaugural Johnny Walker Memorial Tag Rugby Festival will be held at Giggleswick School (2pm), with 18 teams entered at either under-nines or under-11s.

Walker, who went to Settle Primary, Middle and High School and worked as properties manager at Giggleswick School, also played with distinction for North Ribblesdale RUFC, Barrow Raiders, Batley Bulldogs and Hunslet Hawks, as well as representing the North of England and Yorkshire at union.

Richard Wright, headteacher of Settle Primary School, said: “We have linked up with North Ribb, the RFU, Giggleswick School and Settle College to honour Johnny and his memory by holding a tag rugby tournament – a fitting tribute to a great man.

“Johnny was a great role model, sportsman and supporter of sport.

“We hope that this will be the first of many annual tournaments which will promote and showcase rugby to local families and encourage new players, providing a fitting legacy for Johnny.

“On behalf of us all, I would like to thank the Walker family for giving their consent and support to this tournament.”

A total of 18 under-nine and under-11 teams will take part in the tournament and a number of children will enjoy RFU coaching during the morning. There will be awards for fair play and best boy and girl.

North Ribblesdale’s mini section are providing referees and Settle College students will act as chaperones.

“We anticipate a number of his friends and colleagues, as well as his family, will join us and everyone is most welcome to come along to the event and remember Johnny,” said Wright.

Walker died aged 44 from a suspected heart attack in January last year.

The day will be made more special by the presence of his sons Lee, Chris and Jack, with the latter two both having played England rugby union at age-group level, as well as making headway with Leeds Carnegie.

The trio intend to coach some schools in the morning at an RFU-organised session before handing out the trophies at about 4.30pm in what it is hoped will be a fitting legacy day for Walker.

Under-nine teams entered are Settle B, Gargrave Primary, ACH Confederation, Giggleswick Primary, Settle A, Giggleswick School, Hellifield Primary and Settle C.

Teams taking part at under-11s are Settle Church of England Primary A, High Bentham Primary, Giggleswick Primary, Austwick-Horton Primary, Hellifield Primary, Gargrave Primary, Christchurch Primary, Settle Church of England Primary B, Giggleswick School and Clapham Primary.

There will be a refreshments stall available on the day, serving cakes and hot drinks for spectators, and proceeds will be passed on to the schools’ respective overseas charities.

* Jack Walker was in the England under-18 team that beat Scotland 28-6 in a hard-fought contest at Dalziel RFC on Sunday.

Giggleswick School’s Taylor Prell, who is also attached to Leeds Carnegie, came off the bench.

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