Challenge Cup coming to town

St Albans Centurions will make history next month when they enter the draw for the world famous Rugby League Challenge Cup for the first time.

The Woollams-based club have taken the opportunity offered to all members of the new National League Three to enter the Powergen Challenge Cup at the new Preliminary Round stage, which will be held on 15/16 November. The draw, which takes place on 22 October, could pit the Cents against opposition from as far and wide as Ireland, Scotland, Wales or the armed forces, as well as many other top amateur sides.

"This is an incredibly exciting time for the club," said director Gavin Willacy. "We have the chance to play a high-profile game against some very interesting opposition in November and if we win a couple of games, we could find ourselves playing in France or against one of the top Russian sides, as the Powergen Challenge Cup is basically a European Cup for Rugby League now.

"It would take an extraordinary run to get through to play a Super League side but Simms Cross, a small amateur club, got through to play Wigan at the JJB Stadium last year and even took the lead, so you never know!"

The final is in April 2004 at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, where Bradford Bulls beat Leeds Rhinos in a classic final earlier this year. Centurions will be announcing sponsorship packages and ticket details nearer the time of the draw.

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Trophies Shared Around On Night of Celebration

There were seven different winners of the eight awards on offer at the St Albans Centurions End of Season Presentation Night on Friday. At a packed Woollams, local boy Dene Miller was the only player to win two awards - Young Player of the Year and Top Tryscorer - while skipper Tom Eisenhuth was awarded the Man of Steel award for his contribution on and off the field in this magnificent first season in National League Three.

The full list of winners was;

Man of Steel - Tom Eisenhuth

Ged Birkin Memorial Players' Player of the Year -Leigh Strid

Supporters' Player of the Year - Adam Cox

Young Player of the Year - Dene Miller

Best Newcomer - Jamie Zonta

Young Gun - Oli FOuntain

Top Tryscorer - Dene Miller

Second Team Player of the Year - Craig Gunnell

There was double celebration for Welwyn Garden City as WGC products Miller and fellow centre Craig Gunnell swept three awards between them, Gunnell being voted the best player in the Centurions side that reached the London League Grand Final.

Four awards went to Australians: London-based teachers Eisenhuth and Cox, plus tenacious utility man Leigh Strid and halfback Jamie Zonta, both of whom have decisions to make as to whether to stay in the country to play with St Albans again next season.

And, in front of many of his Under-16 team-mates, Oli Fountain picked up the Young Player plaque for his momentous performances for the Young Cents that earned him an academy contract with London Broncos and an England Under-17s call-up. The forward from Watford is now attending sixth form college in Isleworth and training with the Super League club.

The evening bash was a huge success with over 90 guests partying til midnight and much-needed funds raised for the club via a popular auction of rugby league memorabilia.

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