BOLTON Mets believe they will make history on Saturday when they play a mostly gay rugby league team.
It will be the first-ever match for the newly-formed Manchester Canalsiders who claim to be the world’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) RL side.
Mets secretary Stuart Cooke says it is an honour to be involved in the groundbreaking encounter and is proud the sport is leading the way in breaking down barriers.
While Canalsiders chairman Martin Owens thanked the Bolton team for making the historic event possible.
Cooke told The Bolton News: “It is nice to see rugby league showing the way forward and involving the gay community.
“Other sports, like football, may have different viewpoints but I think it can only be good for rugby to show that sport is for all.
“It is a groundbreaking first game for Manchester Canalsiders and one we are proud to be involved with.”
The game in Manchester will be the Mets’ second friendly ahead of their North West Men’s Division Three campaign, following last weekend’s 34-14 defeat at Irlam Hornets.
It gives new coach Marc Simon a chance to have a look at some new players and Cooke says the game actually came about through Simon’s involvement at last year’s Rugby League World Cup.
Cooke said: “Our new coach Marc was a volunteer at the World Cup and bumped into Martin Owens from Manchester Canalsiders who was doing likewise.
“The subject of a game was mentioned and here we are now ready for it to take place on Saturday.
“It’s a chance for us to look at the new players and should be an interesting game.
“With Canalsiders’ men’s team being new, we don’t know what level they are at but they have been using East Manchester Rangers’ facilities so I think they will be at a good level.
“I think they are hoping to get into the men’s league as soon as possible.
“Whatever the outcome, it is great for Bolton Mets to be a part of history.”
Owens, who set up the Canalsiders and also plays hooker, admits it is the realisation of a dream.
He said: “It is a special day for us to play our first full-contact game and we thank Bolton Mets for helping get the game on.
“We only launched a year ago but have had great interest and now we have our first match it will show where we are in terms of standard.
“We have had a lot of help in the first year from Salford City Reds and East Manchester Rangers where we train and two of their lads are going to play for us on Saturday.”
Owens is pleased the sport he loves is breaking down barriers, particularly at a time when there is controversy at the Sochi Winter Olympics over the inclusion of gay athletes.
Manchester Canalsiders is also open to straight men and women.
He added: “It is great that rugby league is showing the way.
“We are the world’s first LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rugby league team and since we formed we have had enquiries from a team in Leeds looking to follow suit.
“There are LGBT teams in other sports and around 13 or 14 in rugby union but we are the first rugby league team.
“Hopefully, this game will be the start for us and the sport in more getting involved.”