As 2015 draws to a close I would like to thank supporters, players, officials, volunteers and sponsors alike for helping to make this year the best for Rugby League in the modern era.

We saw Kevin Sinfield finish second in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Whilst both his success and the incredible performance (once again) of Lizzie Jones were the highlights of the show, I was delighted to see our sport showcased so well in front of millions, in the iconic sports highlights show of the year.
Widnes SOM (6)
It would have been impossible for it to have been any other way.

Over the course of the past three years Rugby League has gone on a journey to move the sport forward into a brave new era. In 2013 we all enjoyed the most successful Rugby League World Cup ever, in 2014 we took the tough decisions to restructure our professional domestic leagues and this year, well every second mattered. Ryan Hall’s try in the last play of the final game of the regular season, to win the League Leaders Shield for Leeds, delivered one of the enduring images of recent times.

It was the type of unscripted drama only sport could provide.

2015 was a year of firsts. We sold out the Grand Final for the first time ever. The World Club Series saw the NRL bring three clubs across to the UK. Summer Bash took place for the first time. The Million Pound Game was introduced. Leeds Rhinos won the treble. A Rugby League player was nominated for BBC Sports Personality of the Year. 44,000 people watched a Rugby League international at the Olympic Stadium. The list goes on.

The Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final, while perhaps not the thrilling finale we are still waiting for from a Wembley showcase, still delivered moments that will live long in the memory. Tom Briscoe scored a record five tries, a quite wonderful statue celebrating our sport was unveiled at Wembley and who will ever forget Lizzie Jones’ tear jerking rendition of abide with me. Undoubtedly one of the moments of the sporting year.

2015 also reminded me of how incredible fans of Rugby League are. A record 67,500 fans travelled up to Newcastle to take part in Magic Weekend. More than 92,000 people watched England take on and beat the number one team in the world over three tests. More than 278,000 votes were cast for Kevin Sinfield. Moments of tragedy brought people together and the support shown by all fans throughout the year demonstrated the strength of the Rugby League family. And in December Rugby League received the welcome boost that our Active People numbers, the government statistic for measuring how many people are playing sport, had gone up.

Thank you to all fans for helping to make 2015 a year to remember for our sport.

In 2016 we will strive to deliver an even more compelling season and experience for fans of Rugby League. Many clubs have strengthened and brought in players that will ensure our League competitions remain incredibly competitive and of course Toulouse will enter League 1 in another exciting initiative. In a mere 6 weeks the best three teams from the 2015 NRL competition will travel across to compete in the 2016 World Club Series while Magic Weekend and Summer Bash will return to Newcastle and Blackpool in May and offer fans another unforgettable weekend.

England and Scotland will be back in action as the Four Nations takes place across the country at the end of next year. It will without doubt be another exciting year for Rugby League.

120 years after this great sport was founded, 2015 was without doubt one of the most exciting, unpredictable, emotional and memorable in the sport’s history. I am certain that 2016 will match it and I cannot wait for 4 February when it all begins again. In closing can I express our sincere sympathy for all those members of the Rugby League family affected by the adverse weather over the past weeks. Against that difficult backdrop I would especially wish every fan of Rugby League a happy, healthy and memorable 2016.