Hunslet Rugby League club is an iconic brand recognised across the globe – including, closer to home, in Kent, thanks to non-executive director Damian Irvine.
The Australian, who lists on an impressive cv a stint as chairman of leading Sydney outfit Cronulla Sharks, joined the Parksiders in late 2019 and has remained heavily involved after taking on the role of CEO at Medway soccer club Ebbsfleet United early last year.
Knowledge acquired by Irvine in dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on professional sport has been invaluable for both outfits while the experienced administrator had identified at the outset areas in which the two clubs could support each other.
One example is in sales of leisurewear and Ebbsfleet’s Head of Performance Lee Taylor is delighted to parade Hunslet’s chocolate and white away colours around the area.
He said: “I love my Hunslet training shirt! Throughout my career I’ve spent time in Australia and New Zealand working with Elite Football and Rugby squads and players, and we’ve always looked to Rugby League as the toughest and highest performance team sport in terms of the standards the athletes set in conditioning and fitness.
“We’ve been learning about Hunslet, which is such an historic club, and obviously with Damian’s background and influence we are looking to integrate more cross-code ideas and methods.“
Irvine said: “Last year, prior to the pandemic, Ebbsfleet had trips to the north scheduled in our season while Hunslet coach Gary Thornton and his squad had at least one trip to London to navigate in the regular season. The plan was to assist each other with the use of facilities where possible, and as a friendly local contact.
“That obviously changed with the lockdowns but both clubs have a tremendous supporter-centric background and history. It can only be a good thing for both clubs if United supporters take up an interest in looking out for Hunslet’s results as the new campaign kicks off, and Hunslet fans take a similar interest in Ebbsfleet’s fortunes. Future fixture lists permitting, it would be fantastic to see the passionate and committed travelling supporters of each club call in and enjoy each other’s sports and hospitality in weekend double headers of sorts.“
He added: “We have Jordan Holmes, the Australian Olympic goalkeeper, here at Ebbsfleet. Jordan is a passionate Rugby League supporter who follows the Bulldogs with his dad back at home. We show the squad Rugby league matches on the team coach when a live game is on, and obviously when the Sharks play the Bulldogs it’s a week of banter between Jordan and myself!
“After LT and I ordered some of the fantastic new range of training merchandise the United lads have all got interested – we will make sure they are behind GT and the team in what promised to be a very exciting League 1 in 2021.”