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Rugby League pioneers recognised in New Year’s Honours

31st of December 2013
Rugby League pioneers recognised in New Year’s Honours

Two pioneers of the development of Rugby League have been recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.

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Two pioneers of the development of Rugby League have been recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.


Martin Coyd, who has been awarded the OBE and Malcolm Kielty, who has received the MBE, have both played leading roles in the development of Wheelchair Rugby League and in Martin’s case also the establishing of Rugby League as an official sport within the British Armed Forces.


Commenting on their awards RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood said: “Martin Coyd and Malcom Kielty have been true pioneers of Rugby League and their honours are richly deserved for the outstanding and unstinting dedication they have shown over so many years.


“They have successfully tackled many obstacles to develop both Wheelchair Rugby League and establish the sport across the Armed Forces, while introducing thousands of people to take up the game, and it is fitting that at the end of the year which saw such a successful Festival of World Cups staged in Britain that their achievements have been recognised.”


Martin Coyd OBE – from Gillingham, Kent – was instrumental in forming the Army Rugby League and Combined Services Rugby League. When he joined the Royal Engineers in 1983 Martin was frustrated to find that he was unable to continue to play Rugby League because Rugby Union was the only code recognised by the Army.


Martin reacted to the unfairness of this discrimination and along with a group of enthusiastic fellow soldiers worked tirelessly to overcome numerous obstacles to achieve his vision for Rugby League gaining equal recognition in the Armed Forces. His crusade came to a successful end in 1994 when the Army Rugby League was finally formed and recognised.


Martin was the organisation’s first secretary and then played a leading role in the establishment of the Combined Services Rugby League team when the RAF and Navy were subsequently recognised in 1996 and 1997. Martin continued to support the team’s development and the outstanding progress made was demonstrated when in 2008 the Combined Services side won the inaugural Annual Forces World Cup in Australia.


After leaving the army Martin established the Medway Dragons Club in Gillingham, which has now 13 teams from under 7s to Masters (over 35s) turning out on a weekly basis. Martin has steered the club throughout its existence and they are the proud holders of the Club Mark Gold Standard – the highest rating available to clubs in the game.


Martin has also played a significant role within Wheelchair Rugby League, having been the England Wheelchair Rugby Team Manager since 2008, and this year has been involved in the very successful staging of the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup in Gillingham as part of the 2013 Festival of World Cups. The tournament culminated in a sold out final in which France narrowly beat England in a pulsating match.


Malcolm Kielty, MBE, from Halifax, has been recognised for his outstanding services to Wheelchair Rugby League.


The son of a professional Rugby League player and coach, at just 16 months of age Malcolm contracted polio. Since that time his mobility has been severely restricted and Malcolm has needed the assistance of callipers, walking sticks, walking aides and latterly a wheelchair to get about.


Owing to his disability, Malcolm was unable to partake in able bodied sport. Involvement in sports for people with disabilities was rare in the 1960s. However, when 17 he formed the Bradshaw Junior Rugby League Club and became the club secretary and administrator.


Shortly afterwards he formed the Halifax Rugby League Young Supporters Club and has maintained his active involvement with his own town professional club up to the present day. This early experience of administration gave him the confidence to make a genuine impact by encouraging physically handicapped people to play sport alongside able bodied sportspeople and because of Malcolm Kielty thousands of local youngsters have been introduced to sport over many years.


Malcolm was instrumental in introducing Wheelchair Rugby League to this country. After seeing a demonstration, he organised a match against a team from France in Halifax in 2005. This led to the sport’s rapid expansion in this country with the first international match between England and France being played at Harrow in 2007.


A thriving Wheelchair Rugby League developed and in 2008 England Wheelchair Rugby League won the inaugural Wheelchair Rugby League Cup in Australia, beating Australia in the final. At the 2013 Rugby League World Cup Malcolm was team manager for Ireland and his leadership included raising funding for kit, equipment and training sessions.


Malcolm’s contribution to sport, both local national cannot be overstated. He has been a champion for disabled sports persons and his ability as a fund raiser is outstanding. Never afraid to be innovative, he has raised thousands of pounds for the various organisations he is involved with. He has also raised money for individuals for the provision of specially adapted wheelchairs which has enabled them to participate in sports and make great beneficial changes to their lives.


Both Martin and Malcolm will receive their awards at one of the presentation ceremonies that will be held in 2014.

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