IT will be here before we know it, and all the hard work going into the Rugby League World Club 2021 is already getting over the try line.

RLWC2021 is celebrating a record-breaking year of hugely encouraging sales and its first-ever public ticket ballot as well as ground-breaking social impact in what is billed to be the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup in history.

Fixtures will be taking place locally in Bolton, Leigh, Liverpool, Manchester, St Helens and Warrington - while a number of the competing squads will be based in this area too and mixing with the communities.

The confidence shown in the tournament, with the optimism of fans returning to stadiums in 2021, has shone through in the ticket sales which have exceeded the expectations of organisers who have also honoured the bravery of frontline workers during the Covid-19 pandemic with 20,021 free tickets being allocated to key health and care workers.

Rewarding the health professionals has been just one of the significant social initiatives of the most inclusive Rugby League World Cup in history as RLWC2021 became the first major international sporting event to launch a first of its kind Mental Fitness Charter.

The Rugby League community – and an exciting new audience – have reflected the confidence in the tournament with hugely encouraging interest in tickets.

There are fans from 117 different postcode areas that have purchased tickets from across the UK, with London and northern cities dominating, and over 50 per cent of ticket purchases – in the most affordable and accessible tournament – from fans aged between 25-44 years old.

Fans from 32 countries around the world have bought tickets, with 70 per cent of all ticket purchases considered new to the sport.

This Is Lancashire:

Organisers are giving fans the final chance to access special 2020 promotional prices for this historic tournament in an end-of-year-sale for tickets between December 26-31.

> Buy Rugby League World Cup 2021 tickets

In a year of achievements and firsts, the unique RLWC2021, with men’s, women’s and wheelchair events being held simultaneously, has also partnered with Cazoo in the biggest deal in the tournament’s history which sees the UK’s leading online car retailer announced as RLWC2021’s principal partner.

The benefits of the event for communities across the country have also been highlighted through the tournament committing to deliver the first Physical Disability World Cup during RLWC2021 and the capital grants programme, CreatedBy, which has seen more than 140 projects approved in 2020, with a total value of more than £10million.

A remarkable year started at Buckingham Palace with the first ever public RLWC draw, conducted by the Duke of Sussex, which was streamed globally by host broadcaster BBC and on the Royal Family social media accounts to an engaged audience of more than 30 million people.

The event involved RLWC2021 ambassadors Jason Robinson OBE, James Simpson, Jodie Cunningham, Dame Katherine Grainger and the inspirational Kevin Sinfield representing a pool of stars which has grown to include Adam Hills, Lois Forsell, Robbie Hunter-Paul and current England international Luke Gale.

Joining the star-studded group of ambassadors recently was the inspiring Oliver Thomason who becomes the RLWC2021 Official Inclusion Ambassador.

Having championed the sport of Rugby League and social inclusion in many ways since making his debut for his beloved Warrington Wolves, Oliver joined the team to now champion social inclusion on a global stage.

On June 10, 2020 – 500 days to go to the opening fixture at St James’ Park in Newcastle – RLWC2021 revealed a new brand identity, celebrating ‘The Power of Together’, with the goal of connecting the tournament with a universal audience. A refreshed RLWC2021 inclusive brand symbol – the Cup – was created.

At the ‘One Year To Go’ mark, world renowned poet Tony Walsh captured the spirt of ‘The Power of Together’ in his widely acclaimed declaration of hope which featured on national and local media – and underlined the essence of a global event with local positive aims.

The final highlight of the year was the partnership with Cazoo, who join RLWC2021’s other partnerships with YPO, Movember, Community Integrated Care, Kappa, Kuehne+Nagel, Riverside Brands, CUBE Partnership, Glory Days, Rugby League Cares and Mental Health UK, TxGB and The Voice. All new partners joined existing partners Deloitte, Eversheds Sutherland, UNICEF and Manchester Metropolitan University.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said: “The Rugby League World Cup 2021 has already delivered significant positive social and commercial benefits to its 18 host cities and the surrounding areas - across the north of England.

“Through smart partnerships and innovative thinking, the RLWC2021 is well on course to achieving its stated aim of being the biggest and best in history.

“As the largest sporting event held exclusively in England next year, the RLWC2021 follows in the tradition of the previous global events held in this country and will be a true celebration of the sport.”

RLWC2021 chief executive Jon Dutton added: “It’s been a remarkable year as we build our momentum to 2021, one we could never have expected, but a year we’ve adapted, advanced and seen huge achievements – especially by delivering positive social impact that is already making a difference.

“As fans begin to return to stadiums across the world, we know that RLWC2021 is going to play a major part of that celebration of sport next year.

“We have been hugely encouraged by the support we have received which has converted into ticket sales but we know the work doesn’t stop here as we look to deliver the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup in history.

"The positivity from results in 2020 along with the optimism and hope for better times ahead gives us the perfect platform from which to achieve our ambition.”