Halifax Panthers' Keyes looking to make mark at Wembley and on South Africa trip

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Halifax Panthers
Halifax Panthers' Keyes looking to make mark at Wembley and on South Africa trip

His race is on to be fit for Wembley - but there’s no way Halifax’s Joe Keyes will miss out on grafting in South Africa.

The ex-Hull KR stand-off is battling to overcome a pectoral injury to be able to line up against Batley in next Saturday’s 1895 Cup final. That’s the West Yorkshire club’s biggest day out in 35 years since they lost to the formidable Wigan in the 1988 Challenge Cup final. But the Ireland international, 27, has another sizeable date lined up in October.

He will head to Johannesburg with charity Footprints Foundation to help build a school extension and hand out rugby league kit to kids in need. Former Bradford ace Keyes explained: “It’s something my dad’s been doing for the last 12 years. It’s a charity which takes container loads of sports kits over each year. We collect it from people, clubs, community clubs and ex-players who might have training gear sitting in their drawers. We take it and give it out to people who haven’t really got a lot.

“But within the Footprints Foundation we also do construction. Over the years, my dad’s helped build orphanages, redevelop schools and help construction in these squatter camps in Johannesburg. This year we’re helping build an extension on a school. The first four days will be doing that so it'll be pretty tough in that heat. But I'm looking forward to it. Then we get to go see the kids on the squatter camps which will be a really humbling experience.”

Dad is John, the player welfare manager at London Broncos, the club Enfield-born Keyes started out his professional career almost a decade ago. He added: “My dad always says it’s great seeing people with big smiles on their faces wearing Halifax Panthers and Bradford Bulls gear or whichever club. Essentially, it’s something I just wanted to take on. I’ve been watching him do it for so long and always wanted to go.

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Halifax Panthers' Keyes looking to make mark at Wembley and on South Africa tripKids in Johannesburg wearing their donated Halifax Panthers shirts
Halifax Panthers' Keyes looking to make mark at Wembley and on South Africa tripHalifax's Joe Keyes (OMH Rugby Pics)

"I was meant to in 2020 but it got cancelled due to Covid so I’m looking forward to it. It’s mainly about feeding the kids and providing them with clothes but we’re taking some deflated rugby balls over this year to blow up and throw around with them. Who knows where that could lead later down the line.”

Keyes has been out of action since tearing his pectoral in May’s Challenge Cup game against Super League champions St Helens. On whether he’ll be right for Wembley, he insisted: “We don’t know yet. It would be early for the guidelines for return to play but it's feeling good. It’ll be amazing if I do get to play there but we’ll have to wait and see. I’ll be so gutted if I don’t but I’m so happy the lads have got there.”

David Craven

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