A rugby league fan who vowed to become a club mascot following a brush with death has been nominated for a £10,000 super fan award.
Chris Evans came up with a bucket list of things he wanted to achieve in life when he was hospitalised after a freak accident 19 years ago near his then home in Oldham.
After falling onto a kerb, Chris needed an emergency operation at North Manchester General Hospital for traumatic pancreatitis.
Complications then set in when he contracted the MRSA ‘superbug’ and spent six weeks in the hospital high dependence unit, during which his parents were told it was touch and go whether he would survive.
It was then that Chris, now married with a young son and living in Cleckheaton, decided he was going to make a go of his life.
The 42-year-old has since fulfilled his dream of becoming a teacher, visited North Korea, been on a trip to Chernobyl, fired a machine gun, watched a world heavyweight title fight in Vegas, been skiing, attended a Wimbledon tennis final, played football at his beloved Bolton Wanderers’ home ground, swam with sharks and dolphins, walked with lions in Senegal, played darts with champion Ted Hanky, touched molten lava with a stick, visited the Mursi tribe in Ethiopia, appeared on The Weakest Link and completed the Inca Trail in Peru, cycled the most dangerous road in Bolivia, got a master’s degree, learned magic and visited Iceland.
But one of his toughest tasks, which has landed him a £1,000 prize from bookie Betfred, was to become the official mascot of a Betfred Super League club.
The problem was that all of the rugby league clubs near his home – Wakefield, Batley, Castleford, Leeds, Dewsbury, Huddersfield and Bradford – already had their own mascots.
Chris said: “My mum was always into rugby league, supporting Oldham Roughyeds. I was always more of a football fan, supporting Bolton Wanderers but occasionally going to Oldham Athletic games.
“I did enjoy watching and going to rugby league finals though, and footballers are overpaid and all the rolling around on the floor after so-called fouls was starting to annoy me so I switched to rugby league.
“It was when I was on holiday with some pals that we were sat on a beach in Perpignan and decided to go and watch Catalans Dragons, who were playing St Helens. We chatted to some players and supporters afterwards and they basically became my team."
Chris, deputy head at Silcoates School in Wakefield, approached Catalans when he noticed they didn't have a mascot when the club played away matches in the UK.
"I didn’t hear anything for a few months and then they said my offer had been accepted but I ended up having to get my own dragon costume," he said.
“The most expensive quote I got in this country was £4,500, with the cheapest £900. Catalans said they wouldn’t be able to pay that much for the furry costume but I wasn’t going to give up so I advertised in China. You can’t just drag a dragon outfit off the shelf, it has to be authentic.
“I posted a photograph of the home Catalans mascot on the Chinese version of Ebay and asked if anybody could make the costume. After weeks of conversations I finally agreed with one company who did it for £250. It was all completed, foam dragon head and everything."
Since then, Chris has been the Catalans’ away mascot for the last four seasons, going to matches for free with the proviso that he adds to the atmosphere. He follows the mascot code to the letter…not speaking, eating or drinking – but having lots of fun.
He’s now in with a chance of winning the £10,000 prize put up by league title sponsors Betfred, to be this season’s ‘Super Fan’.
Chris joins fellow competition winners so far this season - including the Castleford fan whose family buy all their Christmas presents from the club shop.
Betfred boss Fred Done said: “It is extraordinary that Chris’ life has been totally transformed as he recuperated from his operation in hospital. We’re all passionate about rugby league, and no more so than the club mascots whose antics always provoke a chuckle.”