Almost every year there is something unique about the Rugby League Varsity Match that creates a little bit of history. This year will be no different when the Blues of Oxford and Cambridge march onto the pitch at the HAC lead by captains who both hail from one of rugby league’s powerhouses – Hull.
If that was not enough, Oxford’s Jack Baker and Cambridge’s James Tennison were born in the same hospital in the city, the Hedon Road Maternity Hospital.
The discoveries were only made during questions at a recent reception for the teams to officially launch this year’s Battle of the Blues, and came as somewhat of a surprise to both Captains and clubs.
Oxford’s Captain Jack Baker was born in Hull in 1993. He is reading Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St Peter’s College and will be playing half-back for the Dark Blues on 6 March. Growing up in the village of Burton Pidsea, he attended the local primary school before his family moved to Telford when he was eight. There, the family became heavily involved in Telford Raiders and his parents remain active within the club to this day.
The fascinating news came on the back of some more light-hearted questions at the end of the reception. “We were asked which of us is more northern” Baker explained. “We both replied ‘I’m from Hull’ at the same time and of course then began going into more detail, not least to find out which Hull club we follow.”
“But in my case, Dad is a Saints fan, so I am a Saints fan, but I have fond memories of going to watch FC – or Hull Sharks as they were then known – play at the Boulevard in the early years of Super League.
“It’s a great honour to be leading out the Dark Blues on Thursday. I am really looking forward to the match and the day, and my lads are ready for it.”
Full Back James Tennison will lead out the Light Blues. Reading Law at Trinity College, he hails from Roos just outside the city and attended Hull Trinity House School and Wilberforce College. He returns home every holiday and is passionate about his rugby league heritage, and particularly Hull FC.
Despite any personal reservations, however, Tennison lead the squad to Hull KR as the Robins played host for the second year running to the Cambridge squad during its winter training camp. “It’s a great privilege to be involved with a Super League club, and learning from their staff across a range of important aspects of the game is invaluable. We are hugely grateful to Hull KR for their support in helping us prepare for Varsity.
“We usually have a core of lads from rugby league areas, and we bring plenty of new blood into the sport and show them what it means to be a rugby league player on and off the pitch. We’ve got a good number of returning players this year, and after winning all our league games this season, are keen to take back the lead.”
Both captains are in their final years and, although nothing is further from their minds ahead of the game on Thursday, both are looking to the future. Baker intends to work or further his studies in International Development, whilst Tennison will begin a training contract with American international law firm, Skadden Arps.