TEAM-MATES roared with pride as they celebrated a year of Lions rugby and passed on the mantle to the next Year 10 hopefuls.
The Emmanuel Schools Foundation squad met for the final time for a team picture before handing over the mantle to younger the players who will follow in their footsteps this year.
ESF Lions comprise players from its four academies – Emmanuel College, Gateshead, The King’s Academy, Coulby Newham, Bede Academy, Blyth and Trinity Academy, Thorne, Doncaster.
Almost 100 players try out for the Lions, squad which is eventually reduced to just 24.
The cream of the schools’ rugby players are coached to take on the best schools with a tradition in the sport during an annual tour.
Last year the tour saw the Lions improve with warm-up games against leading independent teams from Barnard Castle School and Sedbergh School for an eventual impressive victory against Fylde from Blackpool.
Backs coach and director of rugby at Bede Academy, Andy Sutherland, said: “Our players learn an awful lot on the tour. They play teams who have played together for a long time so it was always going to be challenging.
“But you could see them growing in confidence, gelling as a team, to the point where they played brilliantly against Fylde. As well as developing as a team they have also become firm friends for life.”
Trials for the next generation are under way and the squad will be selected in February, when the four schools also compete in the ESF Olympics, this year hosted by The King’s Academy.