Ellenborough coach Paul Gorge has a special reason for savouring the excitement of rugby league’s Challenge Cup on Saturday.
For a year ago he was lying in the intensive care unit of a Newcastle hospital in an induced coma, a victim of COVID.
“I’d gone into Whitehaven hospital on Christmas Day and didn’t leave Newcastle until January 15. It was an awful experience, and it all came about a month after my dad died,” he recalls.
His father was Kevan Gorge, former chairman of Workington Town and a driving force behind the Ellenborough club.
“Then last week I tested positive for COVID again but fortunately I’d been double jabbed and had the booster so it was just like having a bad cold. I would definitely recommend people to be fully vaccinated,” he says.
So the anniversary of his release from hospital, which coincides with Ellenborough’s big day in London, is something he is determined to enjoy.
“It has been a struggle for the club financially but we have had a couple of really good sponsorships and our raffles have been well supported. The players have also chipped-in by paying towards our hotel costs so we are sorted,” he says.
The club have to name a 25-strong squad by Friday lunchtime and Elbra will be taking up to 30 players as well as supporters and officials.
They leave by coach at 1pm Friday and will have a leisurely run down to the capital before a meal and then an early night.
“We are playing at Chiswick and we’ve worked out that we are a 45-minute walk away from the ground, so that’s what we will be doing.
“London Chargers look a handy outfit watching them on video, but I’m more than happy with the squad we are taking. There are absentees but I know if we can play to our potential we do ourselves justice,” says the coach.
He had 23 players at Tuesday’s training session and believes that everyone up for selection is excited about the prospect of playing in the Challenge Cup.
John Irving, Owen Hoyles and Shane Ackerley are the absentees but a fourth potential miss, young forward Luke Broster is travelling with the party.
“Luke had been training with Workington Town and they used him as a trialist against Barrow on Sunday, but I’m delighted to say that he’s playing for us on Saturday,” said Gorge.
If Ellenborough are successful on Saturday (1pm kick-off) they face a return trip to the capital in the second round to take on League One outfit London Skolars.
“We are coming straight home after the game on Saturday, but I’ve told the lads if we win and go back we will stay on the Saturday as well for a night out in London. It’s like dangling a carrot,” says the coach.