It’s OK To Talk

Rugby league squad team photo celebrating with hands in the air alongside a mascot

Our university boasts one of the best, most established and the oldest rugby league clubs in the country; The University of Leeds Rugby League Club. Our first team competes strongly every year in the northern premier league and the national cup, with our second team fielding an improving side every year with players competing weekly for a place in the first team. Not only are we a respected club throughout university rugby league but internally recognized as the University of Leeds Team of the Year 2016, in our 50th year of competing. We pride ourselves on being a tight knit, diverse club that grows in strength and stature every year, and every member of the club can vouch for it being the best and most important aspect of their university life.


However, through all of the fun and excitement of being involved in a successful rugby league club, sometimes our darkest hours are not documented. James Burke, a valued and dear friend to all involved in the club and a wonderful talent on the pitch took his own life in April 2017. Unfortunately, this is not as uncommon as might be expected.

“Suicide is the biggest killer among young men in the UK, which to me and my friends involved in Rugby, is not acceptable in a world that is supposedly the most accepting and tolerant generation of humans so far.”

How is it okay that our brother felt he had nowhere to turn in his time of need?

A silver lining

It quickly becomes clear what’s important in our situation, and we are reacting in a way to honour Burko’s life in the best way we know how. Campaigns like #itsokaytotalk have paved the way and with the help of charities and organisations like Mantality, headed by Leeds Rhino’s Stevie Ward, and The Andy Man’s club, the message has begun to get out there about mental health in young men and athletes.

Closer to home Sharon Burke, the strongest and most inspirational woman I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, has set up the James Burke Foundation that as a club we now work closely with. Fundraising ideas have been plentiful from everyone involved including concrete plans for a month of events in November and the running (and probably some walking) of the Leeds half marathon next year. We would invite you to contact the club through the student union for more information if you would like to get involved in the fundraising work. You can do this by emailing Student Activities on

Special thanks to the Leeds University Union and University of Leeds for the help and support in the tough times and the continued support in helping us with our work.

Kyle Greenwood, 
University of Leeds Rugby League Club

Facility Changing Room Closures – Thursday 19th October

Due to essential maintenance works on our water supply we will be closing changing rooms 1 to 6 from 17:30 today, we apologies for the inconvenience this causes.  The Swimming Pool Village change will remain available for showering and toilets.


Gryphons Unite to Tackle Mental Health

American football and rugby league players together in a line

Thank you to Mark Webster for donating his time for photography:

In light of men’s mental health awareness the University of Leeds Rugby League and American Football clubs have teamed up to raise money for the James Burke Foundation and CALM. Both charities work to raise awareness of male mental health and provide support services, with the James Burke Foundation being set up in memory of a University of Leeds student.

“In April of this year we lost a teammate named James Burke to suicide. This affected not only the club but everyone who knew him. We wanted to do something to make a difference and raise awareness of mental health to make sure this never affected another club in our university again. After speaking to American Football we found out they were in a similar situation so with both clubs having been affected by mental health and suicide we decided to pull together and make a collective effort to change the stigma that comes with mental health.

We want to encourage both men and women to speak out and know that its ok, to not be ok”

Andrew Marks, Rugby League

Kyle, who was a teammate of James has written a blog about what happened and you can read it on our Leeds Sport blog.

You can support the clubs throughout November to help raise funds and awareness of mental health by getting involved in one of the many exciting events:

  • Clean Shave

    Whats in store?

    To kick off the month of events the guys from Boris&Co are coming to University Square in LUU (opposite Santander) to give out free cutthroat shaves from a professional barber (worth £25).

    So if you’re planning to do Movember, or just haven’t had a shave for a while then come along and get a clean shave and throw a few coins into the donation buckets to support the mental health charities.

    Where? Opposite Santander, LUU
    When? 1st November, 10am – 4pm, drop in whenever
    Cost? Throw a few coins into the buckets to support the charities Boris &Co logo

  • Pizza & Pool

    Whats in store?
    Come and enjoy some free pizza and pool in the Loft (above Blackwells, opposite the Parkinson Building). it’s a great place to chill out with some mates and have a chat.

    Where? The Loft, above Blackwells, opposite the Parkinson Building
    When? Fridays in November 2-4pm
    Cost? Free

  • Move for Mental Health - 4th November, 9am

    Whats in store?
    Support the American Football and Rugby League clubs by getting involved in the Woodhouse Moor parkrun with them. This free fun 5k run (or walk) is a great way to start your weekend!

    Where? Woodhouse Moor, Red Boots Statue opposite the Business School
    When? 4th November, 9am
    Cost? Free

  • Birthday Game

    Whats in store?
    Come and watch the University of Leeds Rugby League Club take on Leeds Beckett in this Varsity re-match at Bodington Playing Fields. Taking place on the birthday of James Burke there will be a minutes pause before the match in his memory.

    Our University cheerleaders will also be at the match with a half time routine and following the game there will be a post match party at Pyramid in LUU, details below.

    Where? Sports Park Weetwood
    When? 8th November, 2pm KO
    Cost? Free

  • Pyramid Party

    Whats in store?

    Drinks, a raffle, and a player pledge auction to help raise money for both of the amazing causes that support men’s mental health awareness.
    As if that wasn’t enough, freestyle dance will be performing and the cocktails that each of these teams has designed; Cool Rummings and Pornstashe Martini will be on sale at the event and throughout the whole month of November, with a pound of each cocktail sold going to the charities. Non alcoholic drinks will also be available at the bar.
    This is the perfect place to start your Wednesday night and support these mental health charities.

  • Yorkshire Carnegie v Bristol

    Whats in store?

    Get down to Headingley to see Yorkshire Carnegie take on Bristol on Friday 17th November. As well as the rugby, there will be live music from Hyde Park Brass Band ahead of the game and at half time. Plus you’ll spot the boys bucket shaking around the ground raising money for our two fantastic causes. If you see them, throw a few pennies their way!

  • Movie Night

    Whats in store?
    Come and enjoy a film in the comfort of LUU, there’ll even be popcorn! American Football have chosen The Longest Yard, and Rugby League have chosen Cool Runnings. We’ll be heading to twitter to vote for the one you’d like to watch so check out @leeds_sport on Monday to get your votes in.

    Where? Pyramid Theatre
    When? Friday 24th November, Bar Open 6pm, Film Starts 6.30pm
    Cost? Pay as you feel

  • Movember Fruity

    Whats in store?
    Everyone’s favourite Friday night out will have a Movember twist! The American Football and Rugby League club will be there with donation buckets so make sure you drop in a few coins to support the charities and get yourself to Terrace for some pre-fruity cocktails made by the clubs; Cool Rummings and Pornstache Martini. A pound from these goes towards the charities.

    Where? Terrace and Stylus, LUU
    When? 24th November, 7pm
    Cost? £4.50 for Fruity and make sure you throw a few coins into the buckets to support the charities

If you would like to donate to the charities then you can give as much or as little as you like online below.

Check out everything that’s happening by following Leeds Sport and the Clubs on social media…

The Ultimate Guide

Women's Frisbee team posing for team photo with frisbee

Most people consider frisbee something you play on holiday; a casual throw around on the beach, perhaps with a dog. However, ultimate frisbee is a far cry from this scene.  This fast paced team sport originated in the USA in the ‘60s and has developed into a competitive game played up to international level, recognised by the International Olympic Committee.

How do you play?

Two teams of seven players compete using a flying disc (Frisbee) on a large grass pitch (roughly the length of a football pitch but a bit narrower), or sometimes in an indoor sports hall or on a beach pitch using slightly adapted rules.

It is a non-contact sport and games can be either mixed or single gender. Games on grass are usually around 70 minutes long. One team starts on offence (i.e. starts with possession of the disc), the other on defence. Players on the offensive team pass the disc between one another and attempt to score in the ‘end zone’, while the other team tries to stop them from scoring, and to obtain possession themselves. You cannot run when holding the disc, and can only hold the disc for 10 seconds.

Man jumping to catch a frisbee

If the disc is intercepted by the other team, if it hits the ground (for example due to a dropped catch) or if it is held for more than 10 seconds, this is a ‘turnover’ and the team that was on defence is now on offence and has a chance to score.

The majority of ultimate frisbee matches take place at weekend-long tournaments, where teams travel from all over the country to play each other. These range from university indoor beginner tournaments (such as Leeds Beginners) and fun tournaments to the more serious, such as UK Club Nationals, European Ultimate Championships and World Ultimate Championships.


How do you score?

At both ends of the pitch there are areas called End Zones. Each team defends an End Zone and scores by a member of their team catching the disc in the opposite End Zone, like in American Football. Once a point has been scored, players can sub on and off and must then return to the starting position (in their defending endzone) ready for the start of the next point.


To get a feel for what a game looks like, check out this highlight video from UK Club Nationals 2017!


What about the referee?

Unusually, ultimate is self-refereed. This means that if there is a breach of the rules, play stops and the players involved briefly discuss what each of them thought happened, and go through a set process to reach the outcome.

This means that the sport relies on ‘spirit of the game,’ or simply ‘spirit,’ and it is a big part of the culture of ultimate. Spirit is a set of expectations for teams and players that ensures fair play. At every tournament, teams score their opposition on how good their spirit was during their game (although this cannot affect the outcome of the game.)

At high level tournaments, Game Advisors are sometimes present. They are there to provide a third party perspective on a call and have excellent knowledge of the rules, however any decisions are still left to the players.


Frisbee at the University of Leeds

At the University of Leeds we have a thriving ultimate frisbee society with mixed, women’s and men’s teams. We compete at university nationals and have achieved excellent placings in the past, including 2nd at Mixed Indoor Nationals 2016, and our women’s team have been northern regional champions for three years running. We train several times a week and have dedicated beginners’ sessions (most of our players hadn’t played, or even heard of, ultimate before they started uni) as well as our own qualified coach. New players can join at any time, just come along to one of our training sessions. To get involved, join our Facebook groups; General group or Beginners group

Each year we also host our  ‘Leeds Beginners’ tournament. We invite teams from other universities to bring their newest players for a weekend of games in Leeds and a party on the Saturday night. Alongside the beginners division runs an experienced division, where university first teams and non-uni teams battle it out for the top spot, showing the beginners what they can aim for.

Female & male watching frisbee flying through the air


Why should you play?

Aside from being really fun to play, ultimate frisbee is a great way to improve your fitness, and is a chance to try something a bit different. The sport is surrounded by a really friendly culture while still remaining competitive, and there is something for everyone, whether you want to represent Great Britain or just play the occasional fun tournament. It’s the best sport you’ve never played!


3 points away from Varsity History

Cheer leaders holding up UNI signs

Into its 13th year of the competition, Leeds Varsity 2017 was as competitive as in recent years, resulting in the Gryphon’s narrowly missing out with an overall score of 32 – 29 to Leeds Beckett University. The score reflects the closing of the gap between the two where just one or two fixtures could have clinched it for the University of Leeds.

Leeds Varsity, the ultimate university sporting competition see’s University of Leeds take on local rivals Leeds Beckett in a calendar of fixtures beginning in January and finishing with a grand finale in October. The October events kick started on the Saturday with parkrun Varsity in which 177 students, staff and alumni got out of bed at 9am to represent UoL and claim an easy victory over rivals Beckett who only managed a mere 36.

Following last year’s successful introduction, Varsity Netball returned with well over 300 spectators who cheered the University of Leeds as they took on the Beckett side who currently play in the BUCS league above. Despite a highly competitive game, Beckett came out on top to win the game 38-29.

2017 saw the introduction of another new Tuesday night event; Varsity Hockey where both the Men and Women’s first teams took to Sports Park Weetwood to battle it out for two all important Varsity points. With close results in both it was Beckett who claimed both points with the men winning 1-0 after a goal in the last five minutes. In the women’s game, the final score finished 3-1 to Beckett despite an impressive drag flick converted by the University of Leeds’ Katie Hopkisson.

The finale Wednesday was packed with intense competition and both universities battled hard against each other throughout the day. The Gryphon’s started the day off trailing 8-2 so had to work hard to try pull some points back. They dominated in the pool, effortlessly winning both the Men and Women’s Swimming gala and securing victories in both Men & Women’s Waterpolo making them undefeated for the 8th year running.

There was fierce competition elsewhere at The Edge with the University hosting the Basketball and Korfball. After some hard battled fixtures, the University came out on top in the Korfball with an impressive 13 – 4 victory. However, Beckett did the triple in the Basketball with victories in all three fixtures.

Indoor rowing, usually a certain victory for the Gryphons, ended up being voided as a fixture due to Beckett racing rowers in incorrect categories.

Over at the Gryphon Centre, the home teams took easy victories in the squash with 4-0 and 5-0 victories. It was a different story in the handball though, with Beckett securing wins in both the men and women’s games.

Meanwhile up at Sports Park Weetwood, it was evenly match in the women’s football with the Gryphons 3rd team taking a 2-1 victory, the 2nd team just missing out as a result of penalties, and the 1st team losing 2-1. In a dramatic extra time finish, the Women’s Lacrosse team edged the victory over their rivals 6-5. A comfortable win in both Men’s Hockey games added two points to the Gryphons tally.

Down the road at Beckett, the university netball teams put in a sterling performance with wins from the 3rd and 4th teams with the 2’s only just missing out 35-33. Beckett used the home turf advantage with a white wash of victories in all 6 tennis matches for the second year in a row. Playing away didn’t deter volleyball with 3-0 wins in both men and women’s fixtures.

The Varsity day culminated with the men’s rugby union finale at Headingley Carnegie Stadium. In an unusual year with the crowds separated behind the goal posts, the overall scores were nail bitingly close leaving the rugby union side going out on to the field trying to reduce the gap to just a single point. The boys put in a valiant effort but it was a physical, league above, Beckett side who pulled away with a 29 – 8 victory.

Claiming that final Varsity point settled the scores at 32 – 29. Congratulations to Leeds Beckett University for their overall victory and well done to all players, coaches, volunteers, staff and spectators for the huge commitment and dedication to Leeds Varsity 2017. Thank you also to RAG for raising an impressive £362 for a fantastic cause, State of Mind, and to our student media societies for their coverage of the game.

A full list of the results can be found here, and keep an eye out on our social media channels for photo’s and videos from the day.