A packed programme of entertainment will welcome the Rugby League World Cup to the Shay this Sunday.
Rugby league legends, army soldiers and veterans, school children, dancers and a choir will all play a part in the celebrations as Halifax heads for a day to remember.
All four of the Shay’s stands will be open for the clash between Italy and Tonga, meaning that over 10,000 fans will be watching the iconic event.
The pre-match entertainment runs from 2.30pm to 4pm, and kicks off with a touch rugby game in which local army veterans will take on rugby league legends.
At 3pm, over 550 primary school children, some of whom have been given a lesson by former Halifax RLFC star Frank Watene, will have a once-in-a-lifetime experience when they perform the Tongan Haka (Sipi Tau) on the pitch before the game.
Children from Salterhebble J & I School will then hope to hit the right note in a spectacular choir performance of the Italian and Tongan national anthems.
The match ball will then be brought onto the pitch by a local soldier injured in combat, Sergeant Kevin ‘Charlie’ Drake from the Royal Engineers.
Two serving soldiers will give the trophy pride of place on its plinth on the pitch.
Warrant Officer Class 1 Anthony Pud Cowburn was Captain of the British Army Rugby League team for eight years and now coaches the Army Ladies and is a current player and coach for the Army Vets side.
Corporal Colin Marangon, born in Italy, is captain of the army rugby league first team, champions of the inter-services title 2013), has been playing rugby league for seven years and was involved in the Great Britain combined services squad that competed in the Armed Forces World Cup.
Students from Trinity Academy and Park Lane Learning Trust will carry out the tournament flag and soldiers from the Yorkshire Regiment will bring on the national flags. Youngsters from junior rugby clubs across Calderdale will accompany the players onto the pitch.
At half-time, local dancers of various ages will wow the crowds with an exclusive, high-energy routine, and cheerleaders will strut their stuff.
Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, Coun Steve Sweeney, said: “With just three days to go until the iconic game, we’re all really looking forward to giving the Italian and Tongan teams and fans a warm Calderdale welcome. Spectators can be sure of an amazing event that’s fun for all the family. Our fantastic community spirit will be showcased to the world when over 1,000 local people of mixed ages and backgrounds take to the pitch to entertain the crowds before the match, building excitement for what promises to be a thrilling game.
“It’s great that so many local people have really got behind the Rugby League World Cup. I hope the match inspires people across the borough to get involved in sport.”
Lots has been going on in the build-up to the iconic game, with activities in schools and communities.
Local primary school children recently took part in a Rugby League World Cup themed tag festival at Park Lane Learning Trust. The afternoon started with a parade of flags of the 14 nations that are competing in the tournament.
There were some great skills on show, watched by Halifax RLFC stars Scott Murrell and Adam Robinson, who presented the medals and trophy to the winning teams, accompanied by the Italian and Tongan flags.