There are few tournaments on the PSA Tour with a more unique name than The Northern Joe Cup, but behind the name is a popular event for a fantastic cause.
Now in its third year, the 2023 competition was bigger and better than ever, boasting an all-star cast of young stars and top-100 players, and raising more than £7,000 for charity.
The charity in question is The Brain Tumour Charity, with the tournament having been set up in memory of Joe Rawcliffe, who passed away from a brain tumour in 2020.
Joe’s Dad Richard co-founded the tournament, and explained the story behind how it came to be, highlighting the role the squash family played when Joe was ill, particularly with Joe’s brother Isaac.
“We lost Joe to a brain tumour in early January of 2020,” he said. “The story, realistically, is that Joe was misdiagnosed for several weeks.
“By the time we actually found out he had a brain tumour, we only had two more weeks with him, and he died after having had an operation from which he never recovered.
“We then did some more research around the whole thing and found that it’s the biggest cancer killer in under 40s, and one of the most difficult to diagnose.
“What we wanted to do was put some time and effort into helping to get the signs and symptoms of brain tumours out there, just to try and raise awareness.
“Within the Brain Tumour Charity, you can set up a fund in your name, and we set up Northern Joe’s Fund because Joe was known as Northern Joe. I think when he first went to university there was a whole bunch of folks called Joe and ours was the one from the north, so he was known as Northern Joe.
“He wasn’t actually a squash player, but his brother Isaac was a very highly-ranked junior, and when Joe was going through the last couple of weeks of his illness and my wife and I were spending a lot more time with him, it was the squash family – including his coach Danny Massaro and [former World No.1] Laura Massaro – that stepped up and looked after Isaac.
2023 champions Torrie Malik (left) and Mohamed Zakaria (right)
“So, when we were looking at how we could raise more awareness, we thought… let’s see if we can organise a squash tournament, name it after Joe despite him not being a squash player, but actually get some of the local people involved in it and use that as a vehicle to raise awareness.
“That’s when Josh [Taylor] stepped up. They’d run a couple of small tournaments the previous year and we discussed seeing if we could get something a bit bigger.
“At the time, we were just post-covid, and the PSA were doubling up 3Ks to 6Ks, so we funded a 3K and got a 6K, which attracted a slightly higher lot of players. We then managed to get a 6K last year and this year again, with PSA’s support, we got up to a 9k.”
The 9K status of this year’s event attracted a host of high-profile names, including world junior champion Hamza Khan, the PSA Tour’s youngest ever male winner Mohamad Zakaria, British junior champions Jonah Bryant and Amelie Haworth, and eventual winner Torrie Malik.
Locally-based top-100 players Finnlay Withington and Emyr Evans were also in action with the tournament overall being a huge success.
More than £7,000 has been raised for the Brain Tumour Charity (you can donate more here) with Richard revealing that the success of the event from both an awareness point of view and for player satisfaction, was extremely rewarding.
“As you can see, we’ve got 10 of the world’s top 100 here so it’s been a good event on that basis,” he said.
“For us, it’s very much, how do we try and help more people understand what those signs and symptoms are, so they’ll seek help earlier and not when it’s too late, as it was for Joe.
“You see some of the social stuff that people have put out, and the players have added it to their socials and directed people towards the Brain Tumour Charity website.
“I think the fact that we’ve got a much more international field – we have a number of Egyptian players, French players, South African players etc. who have all come in larger numbers – is very rewarding.
“The feedback we’ve got from the players is that Josh and the team run a very good tournament, they like the tournament.
“They’re not so much friendly games but it’s a friendly tournament and I’ve always felt that player satisfaction is an important part of it. We try and feed them as much as we can, we give them a little giveaway that reminds them of the event, so we try and look after them in the club.
“The whole idea is that we want the players to leave the tournaments having had a really positive experience. We’ve had a lot of returning players, and we’re getting the view from the players that it’s a tournament they like to come to.
“What we need to do now is try to find some bigger sponsors, so if we can do a 10, 12 or 15k in future years that could be really positive.”
If you’d like to help raise awareness for the signs and symptoms of brains tumours, you can do so by donating to The Northern Joe Fund here.