Rugby League, Jesus and me
With the Rugby League World Cup taking place in Australia, Frank Mayfield has been sharing his memories with Christians in Sport of playing for England in the 2008 Student Rugby League World Cup in Brisbane …
It was one of the best few weeks of my life. I got a late call to the squad after one of the wingers got injured, so just making it there was so special. We beat the Kiwis in the semis, which was amazing. Facing the haka was incredible. They were the world champions from four years before, but we managed to grind out a great win.
In the final, we came up against the Australians, coached by one the greatest players to ever pull on a rugby league jersey, Brett Kenny. Amazingly, we led 10-0 at half time, but the Aussies came out like men possessed in the second half in front of a vocal home crowd and scored 26 unanswered points to take the game away from us. We scored a consolation try in the final minutes to make the score 26-16, but it was not enough.
There were a few tears in the dressing room afterwards and a lot of the guys were really gutted, but looking back now, it was still an amazing experience. It was undoubtedly the highlight of my sporting life, to sing the national anthem in that cup final is a moment I’ll never forget.
The privilege of having the gifts to play rugby at that level was something I am so thankful to God for. I really tried to thank Him by playing for Him. I also had a real sense of His calling because I was the only player in the squad who was a Christian. If I hadn’t been there, there wouldn’t have been anyone to share the gospel with them. I felt I was in there for a reason.
Not only was it an amazing experience on the field, it was also a very memorable three weeks being together as a squad. As a Christian, it gave me opportunities to share my faith in Jesus, being so tight knit with the boys, sharing everything together. It opened up numerous doors to speak about my relationship with Christ and how it impacts my life.
As has always been the way in every rugby league team I’ve played for, I was the only Christian, which comes with its challenges, but I was fortunate enough to belong to a very strong Christians in Sport group at Leeds Met University and we had been praying together in the weeks leading up to the tournament for open doors for the gospel.
It was so great to know that I had mates praying for me back home and texting me, keeping me sharp and accountable.