The children of Adel primary school in Leeds were in a feisty mood this week, writes Elaine Williams.
Far from being overawed by the spectacularly brawny presence of the Leeds Rhinos in their school, they welcomed these first-class rugby league players with a spirit that only children can muster.
After being shown a promotional video of Iestyn Harris, the Rhinos' star player and rugby league's answer to Michael Owen, storming through a series of tries, Year 4s were given a quiz and asked how many times Harris passed the ball during the film. "He didn't pass it at all," came one answer, "he hogged it all the time!" Nor did the team's mascot endear itself to all. The sight of a man-size Rhino was too much for some four-year-olds who had to be taken out of their classroom sobbing in terror.
The Rhinos honoured their commitment to visit the primary school, dedicating their first team to an afternoon of coaching and classroom teaching, despite their place in the Challenge Cup final against the London Broncos at Wembley tomorrow.
The enthusiasm with which children, girls as much as boys, tackle the coaching makes it worthwhile, say the players.
The Leeds rugby league club has built up an impressive community programme over the past five years, sending teams of their apprentices for training sessions into primary schools and running summer schools. "It's a great thing to do," said Iestyn Harris. "It's a good way of winding down after a game."
Alan Padden, Adel's head, is unequivocal about the benefits. He said: "The Rhinos bring to our children skills and expertise that we don't possess. They bring with them a code of competitiveness and fair play. Rugby league is structured, it is a great discipline and children gain from that."