Tag Archives: #titansfamily

Rugby Clubs – what are they for?

(This article first appeared in the programme for Rotherham Titans v Hartpury in the Greene King IPA Championship on Saturday 16/9/2017)

village

Twitter brings up lots of interesting links to articles and opinions about rugby, and one made me stop to consider what a rugby club is for. I grew up when playing rugby was for men only. As a non player, I have always seen clubs as a place to watch rugby, though the unfulfilled desire to play probably accounted for me joining the local rugby lads in a mixed hockey team for several seasons. Matches certainly resembled rugby at times, with sticks for added violence. A broken nose and a split shin bone finally put paid to my time with that team.

The piece I found was in an Irish publication; ‘The Village – Ireland’s Political & Cultural magazine’ and was entitled ‘Rugby surrendered its social benefits’ by Jim O’Callaghan, a former Leinster Rugby player & Dublin city councillor. He makes the point that rugby clubs originally formed for young men to participate in sport, but this has now changed so drastically that they are simply becoming places to watch rugby, played by an elite adult group. This has led, he believes, to ‘achievement and excellence, rather than participation and enjoyment’ dominating and driving the sport, and losing their social, community roots.

The RFU, the Lions and the All Blacks management teams were concerned enough about the drop off in young adult participation to hold a series of meetings in NZ during the Lions Tour to discuss this and we attended one at Wellington Football Club (yes, it is a rugby club but their name is WFC – go figure). The general feeling was that this will inevitably affect the cultural and club ethos of rugby, a game for all sizes and abilities, where the grass roots supply the eventual elite, if/when winning becomes everything. We can see it happening, with players having little contact with a proper rugby club, being spotted early on at school or in mini/juniors and hustled into the Premiership Academy system.

Hartpury mix

But as rugby follows the football route of ever greater wages for the elite, huge TV incomes and sponsorship, what is the effect on the grass roots of the sport? What is the local rugby club for?

At most of the ones I’ve been to recently, the ethos is still there for rugby to be played for enjoyment, with the aim of widening participation throughout the community. Sheffield Tigers, high up on Dore Moor, runs teams at different levels, complete with mini/juniors, Colts and Vets and their website emphasises that social rugby selection is ‘based on availability not ability’ with tours, social functions, including a ‘lively clubhouse with traditional rugby songs’!

Doncaster run their Championship team, and also work with schools and colleges through their Academy. Doncaster Phoenix play in a lower league, and DRFC support women’s rugby through the Demons, as well as Colts and mini/juniors.

Hartpury mix 2

Obviously Rotherham act as a club firmly based in its community, running teams at all these levels, and hoping to find the next John Dudley or Simon Bunting coming through from the grassroots sections right up to the Championship team. For me though, the growth of the O2 touch programme really shows that, for many people, the chance to play rugby is still a reason for coming along to a rugby club. I hope it continues to grow and involve people in the game as participants, not just spectators. Just wish it had been around when I was younger – might have saved the broken nose and very painful operation to repair it!

Original article: https://villagemagazine.ie/index.php/2015/08/rugby-surrendered-its-social-benefit/

 

 

 

 

Mud, Maori and alternative use of a beer can

imageWe are World Record Holders; me, Al, and 3 friends we met up with from Sheffield Tigers. Along with 7,700 others we danced a Haka on the Village Green in Rotorua yesterday lunchtime. The sun shone, the eggy steam that is so much part of the city wafted across the crowd and 5 slightly embarrassed English people attempted to follow the instructions of the school kids from Rotorua. We did OK, hiding in the middle, but we certainly weren’t as scary as the team of Maori All Blacks in the match later on. That was one scary Haka.

I love Rotorua. It has a feel of the Happy Days set, and I keep expecting The Fonz to appear in the amazing local Ice Cream Parlour. We spotted several of the team wandering about on Friday, getting their hair cut, looking in shops and cafes, and generally just being tourists. ‘Would never happen in football’ was the comment I heard most! The city put on a fabulous firework display that night as part of the Maori New Year celebrations, and just like with the Haka, the Village Green was immaculate a few hours later, all litter gone and ready for the next communal event. Awesome.

In front of our apartment the mud and steam pools bubble and hiss all day long, and the Maori culture and language echo all around the city. We’ve listened to their music stars, both traditional and modern, tried to pronounce their language, and are planning to explore their culture and this weird landscape more, if it ever stops raining today!

As for the rugby, at the Rotorua International Stadium, I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but it was one crazy, crazy night. The free buses from the city, packed full of supporters, dropped us in what looked like the car park of an ordinary rugby club. We set off along a gravel path, past lots of rugby pitches, towards a pool of light in the distance. As we came over the ridge, below us was a huge bowl, with one stand, about the size of the one at Doncaster. Everywhere else was grass, sloping down to some concrete steps along the sides, and despite it being a couple of hours before kick off, the place was packed with people better prepared than us! They brought waterproof mats or rugs to sit on, or even a bin bag, and the stadium had organised possibly the biggest collection of portaloos I have ever seen. Loos were easy to find, food less so, but perhaps the priorities were correct? I don’t know what it looked like on tv, but it felt like a local ground, designed for a few thousand people, desperately trying to cope. Great atmosphere though, like a proper rugby club ground, not some corporate concrete stadium, where you never feel close to the action.

We never found our seats – we think we were supposed to be behind the goal on some temporary seating, but we couldn’t get round to the entrance to that area and standing down near the try line at the side seemed a better bet. Well, it was until the match started and everyone on the concrete terraces and on the grass sat down! And they stayed siting down, with pointed comments to the 2 tall Lions supporters to get out of the way, sit down, or move. We moved. Up to a walkway that was supposed to be kept clear but the stewards had given up on that. The official attendance was 28,000 I think, but since many were climbing over fences and security was a bit slack, to say the least, I reckon there were a few extra bodies in there.

And the rain started, the ‘fine soft rain’ that the Irish around us seemed to enjoy, and the match flew by at a speed that was scary. It was all a bit of a blur, but Halfpenny looked awesome under high balls, his tackling was solid, apart from the mess up with North down near us that led to the Maori try, and his kicking was a masterclass. Think he is nailed on for the test. The pack look solid, and any 10 would enjoy playing behind them, whoever gets picked, but I hope Farrell really is ready to start as Gatland says. It never felt that we were safe as the Maori just didn’t give up and always looked dangerous, and the slippery conditions meant that almost anyone could mis-time a tackle and end up with a card.

The rain was tipping down by the end of the game – anyone who had tried to put up a brolly found a beer can bouncing off it, or against them, from those behind further up the slope who simply couldn’t see. They have perfected the beer can lob – locals says that’s why people stay sitting down as they don’t appreciate the beer shampoo or the abuse. I’m glad we moved at the start before they used us as targets!

The rain, beer and thousands of feet made getting back up the grass slope quite a challenge and there were some muddy backsides around as people slid their way back to the bus queue. Well, it wasn’t really a queue, more like a general attack on any empty bus by a horde of marauding fans. Half a dozen students in day glo vests didn’t have a hope of controlling it!

Back in town, in Eat Street, an obvious name but at least you know what’s on offer, one topic has been the flak Gatland is getting over the replacements. I think that in some of his thinking he’s right, in that their job is to win the Tests, and everything else fits round that. The schedule is punishing, and the intensity of the games means that playing Tuesday and Saturday is almost impossible, either as a starter or off the bench. We’ve been here less than a week, and the jet lag is still doing weird stuff to my brain and body. How anyone can fly in and play a top level rugby game a couple of days later, I have no idea.

Picking some replacements from guys already in Australia and NZ means they can go straight into a midweek game. They know they aren’t first choice players, but looking at Haskell out on the pitch last night, not on the bench, but out there running as an extra tackler, ball carrier, water boy, sums up for me the attitude on the tour – all in together, do what it takes to win something epic.

So after 3 days in NZ, I can see the difference already to Australia in 2013. This whole country is so rugby nuts, it’s awesome. Everyone talks rugby, from the security guys at Auckland who passed our bags with the comment, ‘Good luck, you’re gonna need it’, to the lady cleaning our flat who thinks the best back row player is Faletau, to anyone in any bar or cafe. Oh, apart from guy in the mini-mart late at night who ended up in a discussion with Al on the ICC final, India v Pakistan. But he was Indian so that’s understandable.

The sun is now shining so it’s off to look at geysers and Kiwi birds – an interlude before the next battle over in Hamilton. No idea what the stadium there is like, but I will remember the Rotorua experience – brilliant, especially since we avoided the beer can bounce, and sliding on our backsides in the mud, full of spine tingling moments as well as the legacy of soggy, mud covered trainers!

 

 

Travelling to #LionsTour2017 – and Dave is with us in spirit again

imageFour years ago I started this blog, before we went off to watch the B&I Lions beat Australia. Part of the reason for writing about our travels was because, sadly, we weren’t travelling with Dave Haswell. We’d been friends, and Rotherham supporters, for many years, wandering the countryside, watching them climb the leagues, and come straight back down again! Dave died before that Tour started but, at every game, I could hear his comments in my mind, especially whenever I was hurling abuse at the referee. I did this a lot and will probably do it all over again in New Zealand, unless they learn how to referee a scrum properly.

You see Dave was a referee, and he always had a good word to say about the man in the middle, as he knew how hard it could be. Faced with conniving front row forwards, out and out lunatics and the helpful advice from the supporters of mainly Yorkshire teams in the leagues he worked in, he tried hard to convince us that the man in the middle was usually right. He refereed some of the Rotherham legends, like Bunny and John Dudley, complete with interesting stories about keeping them playing correctly! When he finally hung up his whistle, he kept up his work in rugby, as part of the Reading Schemes in schools for Rotherham, usually accompanied by Louis McGowan, and as a match day announcer.

I know his son, Chris, will be following every game from Japan, with the benefit of the NZ commentary. Wish we could get that in the UK and lose Stuart Barnes! We will discuss the finer points of every game on line, and see if we can agree on the team Gatland should put out. Not much hope of that as he would fill it with English players, and I obviously have a soft spot for the Welsh. Apparently the commentators in NZ were shocked, in the Crusaders game, at the line speed and defensive work done by what looked very much like the Test team. Let’s hope we can continue that next week in Auckland.

Another Rotherham supporter, Josh, is also on board, in spirit, all the way up there in Kazakhstan. As a geographer, he’s envious of our trip for geographical reasons as well as for the rugby, although I’ve yet to figure out the time differences there, to see if he’s able to watch it live.

Back home we’ve left the Scottish supporter we travel to games with these days. Fee is house and cat sitting, with full access to Sky and hopefully enjoying the stocked freezer! I don’t think the Scottish contingent are going to play a huge role in the Tests but I might be wrong. Thanks Fee – makes for a less stressful trip!

So here at Heathrow, we’ve already met up with half a dozen others travelling out today, and arranged to meet a Sheffield Tigers supporter in Rotorua on Friday night for a beer, if the jet lag allows. I know we will make many new friends on our travels, and this time I hope more of them will be from the country we are travelling to! Australia was fun, with some crazy events (I will never forget the Wild Wombat Tour bus out of Melbourne) and, of course, a win. However the people of Oz didn’t seem that fussed about rugby, except at the games. Already I’ve had emails from all the places we are staying, not just confirming arrangements, but discussing the teams, and even celebrating the fact that Billy Vunipola isn’t on the trip! Different attitude already.

We’ve been invited to a rugby club in Wellington, to meet their supporters and discuss the future of rugby, and how you keep the young players in the game. One answer – get rid of Academies! Should be a fun night.

Anyway, our flight is being called – 30 hours is going to be a long trip – and I can’t wait to see what the next 4 weeks will bring.

Dave will be with us, every step of the way, supporting the man in the middle, in his Specsavers jersey! I will try, in his honour, to remember it’s a tough job, before I call the ref names, but if it comes down to a wrong penalty in the last minute, then I think Dave might have to forgive me for yet again abusing the referee. From where we will be sitting (cheap seats) I doubt the ref will hear, but it will make me feel better.

Here’s to a fun Tour, and possibly a Lions win!

 

 

Not the best season, but we still need to say ‘Thank You’

Fozzy & Louis.jpg

Fozzy and Big Louis McGowan – and yes, Fozzy is standing on a box!

We met up with some old friends in Jersey. One was Louis McGowan, one of the Rotherham greats, long since moved on, but fondly remembered, not just for rugby but for his dedication to projects like the reading scheme in schools. As a club, we keep an eye out for our ‘old boys’; we enjoy meeting up with people like Tamps and McKinney in Jersey, and lots of others this year, around most of the Championship. If they get the chance to move on to higher leagues, we take pride in that too. For me, a great joy this year is to see Buzza off to Newcastle. He’s probably played longer for Leeds than he ever did for us, but he’s still a Rotherham lad, and not just because he comes from the town. Rotherham ‘own’ their players; take pride in them long after they move on. 

 

The picture above, of Fozzy, one of the club stalwarts, who deals with the dirty kit, the messy end of the game, made me think about how many people need our thanks this year, and not just those on the pitch.

 

First though, thank you to all the players; injured, battered, bruised, more so than ever this season; thank you for putting in the hours of training, going out on the pitch and trying to keep this team going. It has been one of the toughest seasons I can remember (even more than in the Premiership years), but for each and every one of you who has put on a Rotherham shirt, you will always be part of the Titans Family.

 

They’ve kept going when all around them players were falling to injury, getting battered and bruised but not giving up. This spirit was summed up for me on Saturday in Jersey, when Millar came off with blood pouring from his nose. He’s a young lad who hasn’t been with us for very long, but his attitude was typically Rotherham. It took Doc a good while to stop the bleeding, assess it (probably broken) and yet he went back on and played most of the rest of the game. Seriously tough, serious respect to him. 

 

I have also loved seeing the boys adapt to the problems this season; Charlie Maddison, still learning his trade as hooker, also standing in admirably in the back row, tackling, scavenging, making breaks. Never happy losing either! Players having to cover other positions, but not complaining. The attitude summed up by tough nut Toby Williams – his interview after the Pirates game was a classic, seriously grumpy face, brief, basic answers, and the attitude that we lost, so what is there to say that’s positive! A great player to put up in front of the media – and I’m reliably informed he wasn’t happy about it! 

 

The list of injuries this season has been quite remarkable – we have never had a season like it. Even when they came back, the gremlins struck again and many didn’t spend long on the pitch. The record surely goes to Charlie Foley. Out for months then 30 minutes on the pitch and off again. Difficult as it is for fans, for the players it must have been devastating. 

 

Finally thanks must go to Dave Swift and his team; I have no idea how they have coped this year. The queue for treatment must have seemed never ending, but they have managed to put out a team each week, to battle it out against the odds.

 

To those who are leaving us this year, we wish you all the best. To those staying with us, here is hoping that next year isn’t quite the same as this one!

 

Thank you from all the fans. #TitansFamily. 

 

This piece first appeared in the match day programme for Rotherham Titans v Nottingham on Saturday 25th March 2017, our last home game of the 2016-17 season. 

#TitansFamily

We use this hashtag a lot; it means we always support the team we have, but more than that, we also support players who have been part of the Rotherham story.

Rotherham is a family club, running everything from mini-juniors, age level rugby, Colts, Vets, Ladies, and the amateur side, Rotherham Phoenix, with ex players involved at every level. It makes our club part of the community, part of the town, and helps it survive, especially at the bad times!

For this Christmas programme piece, I wanted to focus on the family story, especially one family, who have been part of Rotherham history, and show just far how the #TitansFamily tag goes.

mike-umaga

Back in January 1998, Mike Umaga joined our club. He played his last game for us in May 2004, when we lost to Newcastle and were relegated from the Premiership; he managed to score a try (his 38th for the club) in that last match. Throughout his time with us, he was respected both on and off the field. Despite many rumours that he would persuade his brother Tana to come and join him at Rotherham, it never happened!

mike-and-jacob

As a club, we don’t forget our ‘old boys’, and when another Umaga began to hit the rugby headlines, the Rotherham faithful started to take an interest, as many of us remembered the small boy running round Clifton Lane while his dad was on the pitch.

The New Zealand Herald, in April this year, seemed a bit put out that he was actually playing for England! I know the All-Blacks like to hoover up players from all over the South Pacific, but Jacob was born here and England needs players with his kind of talent. In June he moved from Leicester Academy up the M69 to Wasps, where another Rotherham ‘old boy’ was settling in. Did Lee Blackett have anything to do with this move? Who knows. Lee and Mike certainly were together at Rotherham. It is another little link with the #TitansFamily.

As with many young players on Premiership squads, he was sent out in October to Hinckley Rugby Club. Lucky Hinckley! He’s scored 30 points in 10 appearances, including 5 tries, up to the start of December. One of our ex players, up against him in a game, told me he’s fast, strong and very difficult to catch!

jacob-1

So at 18 years of age, he’s played U18, U19, and has been selected for the U20 for England in the 6 Nations, and the U20 Championship in Georgia in 2017.

jacob-eng-kit

I know from Twitter that his family are immensely proud of what he has achieved so far. Perhaps the fact that he has a set of Rugby followers up the M1 in Rotherham hasn’t filtered through to him yet, but we are there, looking at the results and smiling to see the name ‘Umaga’ listed yet again. We will follow his progress with interest, and if he ever finds Hinckley too easy, I’m sure he’d be welcomed back to Clifton Lane with open arms. Just have a word with Mr Blackett.

First published in the programme for the game Rotherham v Doncaster Knights 26th December 2016. Thanks to the Umaga family for their photo of Mike and Jacob.

Small margins matter – even more this season

nottingham

We started the game against Nottingham at Lady Bay in the bottom half of the table. Not really in danger, but definitely nowhere near the top 4. Part of the way through the game, when news came in of Pirates win against Doncaster, the calculators were out and I’m sure someone came up with the statistic that, if we won with a bonus point, we could be in, or just outside, the top 4!

It has been a week for statistics. If you missed Titans Tuesday with Justin Burnell and Rhys Edwards, then the stats they gave us were fascinating. Here’s just a few of them:

Fascinating Stat #1

  • We have the best record in the League for penalties – we give away an average of 6 or 7 per game, which is way better than most other teams. I don’t think many people there could have predicted that.

Our discipline this year has appeared to be much better. Obviously if we cut out the penalties, then the opposition have fewer chances to kick to the corner and go for the dreaded rolling maul.

Fascinating Stat #2

  • We were asked to guess how many minutes of actual playing time happened in the game against Jersey. No one guessed correctly. There were 32 minutes of actual play, less than half a game! Apparently even in International games, they rarely achieve more than more than 45 minutes.

So how much time is lost to the endless scrum resets? On Twitter I seem to type ‘Scrum collapses. Reset’ so many times during a game that the predictive text almost does it for me. What is the answer – do referees really understand the scrum, and are they prepared to penalise the offenders for the errors? The ref on Sunday penalised Nottingham at almost a dozen scrums, yet the yellow card never appeared. Surely it should have done, to reward the dominance that Rotherham had at the set piece.

Fascinating Stat #3

  • They review EVERY aspect of the game. The players get points for their passing skills, even losing points for a pass that hits the body, rather than being into space to be caught. The slide showing this was too small to see exactly who was top, and who was bottom!

On Sunday, at Nottingham, I watched with a great deal of interest to see just how the skills sessions on passing were being put into practice on match days. They certainly seemed to be passing with greater accuracy and skill, arms out to pass and to catch, ball not hitting the body, and that’s the forwards as well as the backs.

Titans Tuesday usually points up something I’ve missed from the game, or teaches me about a technical aspect I didn’t know. On Tuesday Justin and Rhys also emphasised the youth and inexperience, at this level, of the majority of our squad. They will make mistakes, but they learn from them.

At Nottingham, this inexperience showed at the end; instead of hanging onto the ball, and their lead, they let Nottingham back in, to draw the game deep in added time. Nottingham celebrated as if they’d won. Rotherham looked like they had lost.

Round 10 games complete, it shows just how tight this league is: 6 points separate Nottingham in 4th from Jersey in 11th. One win, especially with a bonus point, can really change things. We just need to find a way to do that! Could it possibly be against London Irish, with their #Fascinating Stat of 10 wins from 10 games. Be nice, wouldn’t it?

First published in the programme for Rotherham v London Irish on 3rd December 2016

T’interweb, Twitter, stuff you really do need to look at…

I live with a Luddite. His mobile phone is an ancient Nokia, with no access to T’interweb; it just does calls and texts. He doesn’t have any social media accounts, and sees no reason why he should. However, the access to sport, and the stuff that surrounds it on line nowadays, might be giving even him pause for thought….

The weekend away at Ealing wasn’t a good one for Rotherham; the result and the injuries didn’t make for a fun away trip for anyone.

Down the road from the Trailfinders’ ground, as we walked back to the station for the trip home, the Wembley arch lit up the night sky. Fireworks were going off all around and I checked up on the final score of Springboks v Barbarians. It was a draw, 31 points each. In case you’re in the Luddite collection, or if you’ve missed it in huge variety of stuff available on-line, the Barbarians have one of the best Twitter feeds going – clever, funny and totally fitting the whole vibe of the team. @Barbarian_FC is run by Nick Morris @NJMorris1, and his Baabas account has over 53k followers!

Here’s an example of one of his tweets from that game:

barbarian-logo Barbarian FC  @Barbarian_FC

Scrum 5m from Boks line. Our diet this week has been more full English than quinoa but props are up for this! #rugby #rugbyunited ~BARvSA

How many props even know what quinoa is!

He also finds links to some amazing footage, such as this try by the Baabaas – awesome stuff: https://t.co/331eYWgOFm

The BaaBaas moved on to a midweek game in the Czech Republic, where they helped out with coaching at a junior club, explored the cultural delights of Prague, learning that they first brewed beer in the country in 933, in a monastery, and then they ran in a few tries for good measure. They won 0-71, made a lot of new friends in the process, and left a large cheque for the development of rugby in the country.

The tweets focused on beer, a lot, the cold, and the skills shown by both sides:

      barbarian-logo  Barbarian FC  @Barbarian_FC

Outstanding attack from Czechs. Crossfield chip & gather. Unlike a Justin Bieber concert, that was poetry in motion #rugby #rugbyunited

Then it was on to Belfast, to a match against Fiji, in torrential rain. Again, the level of entertainment on the field was matched by the online commentary:

barbarian-logoBarbarian FC  @Barbarian_FC

More rain. Thankfully no sign of Cliff Ricahrd yet but please be vigilant…28-0 (33) #rugby #rugbyunited #BARvFIJI

So, to all of you out there who still prefer print, like my own Luddite, who see no reason to sign up for any social media stuff, can I just make a plea for you to give Twitter a go?

twitter

Signing up to Twitter is easy – all you need is a phone number, access to a computer, or download the app to your phone, and then it is a few simple steps:

  • Go to http://twitter.com and find the sign up box
  • Enter your full namephone number, and a password.
  • Click Sign up for Twitter.
  • In order to verify your phone number, they send an SMS text message with a code. Enter the verification code in the box provided.
  • Once you’ve clicked Sign up for Twitter, you can select a username (usernames are unique identifiers on Twitter) — type your own or choose one they suggest.
  • Click Create my account. You may be asked to complete a Captcha to check you’re human.

Don’t be a Luddite – give it a try – it’s fun!

Kernow Bys Vicken *

Last weekend I spent Sunday (23/10/16) waving a St Piran’s flag ** and cheering on a Cornish team. Not something I’ve done before, and nothing whatsoever to do with rugby…. or perhaps that’s not entirely true…
The Amateur Swimming Association held their National County Championships in Sheffield, at Pond’s Forge, last weekend, with every county represented. 1200 young people, and their friends and families, screaming their heads off and supporting their team. I was there supporting Cornwall, specifically my nephew Ben Hallam, swimming for his county and achieving two PBs in the events he took part in. It was his first swim at National level, and you can’t ask for more than personal bests. Very, very proud aunt and uncle.


Hours of training have gone into this, from when he was very small, with a weekly swimming lesson, to 5 or 6 days a week in the pool, and competitions most weekends, now he’s older. I am in absolute awe of his commitment and dedication to his sport. His parents, like so many involved in supporting their offspring in competitive sport, also deserve a medal. The hours in a car, plus huge amounts of food, specialist gear for events and training – have you seen how much the Speedo stuff costs! – all this takes dedication from them as well.

The question comes; how good is he? Well, physically he fits the mould for a swimmer, well over 6 feet tall and only just 15. Huge feet make great flippers, big shoulders, long arms, endless stamina and a focus on his sport that I never had when I was his age. He’s learnt to deal with physical pain and setbacks very early on in life, such as breaking a collar bone when skiing with me a few years ago. I know how much it hurt but he never complained and even took up Dave Swift’s (Rotherham’s physio) advice that, ‘there’s nowt wrong with your legs, lad, so get on a bike’. He found an exercise bike and spent 6 weeks pounding that until he could swim again.

I did harbour the hope that Ben would get into playing rugby, rather than just enjoying watching it, as he’d make a great second row forward. But he’s clear about his goals, to swim at the highest level possible, and I hope that one day you’ll see him in a British set of Speedos, swimming for his country, and remember that his mad auntie wrote about him in a rugby programme. Rugby, swimming, any sport; you need the dedication I see in Ben, as well as the support from the clubs and volunteers who give up their weekends to run events like the Championships, not forgetting the parents, family and friends who travel the country to support and encourage them.

ben-1

I only realised later that this piece would be in the programme for the Cornish Pirates game. Sorry lads, I won’t be waving St Piran’s flag or cheering you on; my loyalties lie with Roth. And you won’t get Ben’s support either for this particular game – he was born up here and Roth are his team; although if he ever gives up swimming and decides to be a second row forward, you can have first dibs on him.

* Cornwall For Ever
**  Patron saint of Cornwall

 

cornwall-2

First published in the match day programme for Rotherham Titans v Cornish Pirates on Saturday 29th October 2016 (and we won with the last kick of the game!)

#Friday Night Lights at Bedford Blues

 

So when is the best time to play a rugby match? No sarcastic answers such as ‘whenever we win’…..

Bedford have decided that Friday night, for some games, is the best way forward financially; they encourage people to come straight from work, have a drink and a meal, then stay on after the game, for live music and yet more beer. Since there were 2398 of us, in the pouring rain at Bedford on Friday night, it seems like this formula is working. After the match the marquee was packed, and so were the bars; hopefully a profitable night for them.

Looking at the attendances for Saturday’s games, I expected that there would be a decent crowd at Irish; 4025 people went, probably with a sizeable contingent from Welsh for this Exiles derby.

Over in Jersey 1702 people watched them lose to Scottish. We all know that every club tries to take as many fans as possible to this away game, always an epic trip, even if the rugby isn’t the most memorable part of it!

On Saturday afternoon we wandered over to Doncaster, where an awful scrappy game was thrown away by Nottingham, via 3 yellow cards and some shambolic line out work when camped on Donny’s 5m line. Apparently 1388 were watching, but they must have been in the hospitality boxes, or under the stand, as it looked a very small crowd indeed.

So back to the Friday Night argument and especially the negative effect on the away support. There was no supporters’ bus on Friday, which is most unusual. To get to Bedford, by bus, would have meant at least half a day off work for people, not a practical option. It was left to those of us with more flexible timetables (!), to find alternative ways to join in the fun. #ShedOnTour were there, noisy as ever, but via cars, not bus.

ps

Paul Selwood deserves an honourable mention for the expedition he undertook from Plymouth to Bedford, on public transport, to add his voice on Friday night. We tried that once, going from Doncaster by train, on a Friday afternoon, to get to Scottish v Rotherham out at the RAG. We made it by the skin of our teeth, just as the teams ran out, and the train home got us into the house just before 1am. We haven’t ever contemplated repeating that expedition!

Arguments on various forums point out that Friday night/Sunday afternoon games allow players from other local clubs to come along to watch, and if I have to choose, then I think that the Sunday option is preferable to Friday night. For Pirates games, which are almost always on a Sunday, it allows teams to travel on a Saturday to Cornwall, rather than brave the motorways on a Friday for a Saturday fixture. Nottingham have to play to suit the football teams’ requirements, and Leeds do what they do…..

Interestingly, the view of the players from Bedford about #Friday Night Lights was explored in their programme. As well as getting the weekend off, Mike Rayer had given them the Monday too, so a couple of guys were planning a fishing trip, others were off to Dublin and one was planning a box-set-binge weekend!

We managed 3 live games; Friday with Roth, Saturday with Donny and finally Roth’s old boys on the TV for Ealing on Sunday. Just a shame we lost…..

 

 

This article was first published in the matchday programme for Rotherham Titans v Doncaster Knights in the B&I cup on Saturday 15/10/16

One from last season that got ‘lost’ – A weekend with ‘Charming Betty’

 

First ever trip to Jersey for me, and it was brilliant – apart from the result of course. I seem to have said that phrase more than once this season so I thought I’d look back and try and find positives, rather than focus on bad stuff. Strangely that included a trip on the ‘Charming Betty’ – (see below)

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We followed the tweets on Friday night to find out Rotherham couldn’t be relegated, as Moseley lost. It was a relief, but tinged with sadness as I really like the trips to Mose, apart from the awful game there this season leading to Mark Jones and the club deciding to go their separate ways. It was an awful match, up there with some of the worst I’ve been to in years of watching Roth. Bedford away this season, in the first half, also wasn’t great, but the come back in the second half showed that the boys could play good rugby, with the desire to put things right when they went wrong. We saw that determination in the team meeting after Moseley, led by Tom Holmes. A passionate and dedicated player, trying hard to explain what had gone wrong and how they were trying to put it right.

Away at Ealing in November was also another good memory from this season – brilliant running rugby, great tries and a team playing together with a high level of skill. I still can’t work out how we went from that to the low points, the losses that followed. Sometimes we were simply unlucky, other times it was the awful rolling maul that floored us, and I still believe we have been battered by injuries in a way that hasn’t helped, more this season than normal.

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As for Jersey and our trip on ‘Charming Betty’ – in case you’ve never done it, this amphibious vehicle takes people across to Elizabeth Castle in the bay at St Helier. Named by Sir Walter Raleigh in honour of the first Queen Elizabeth, it is a lovely way to spend a sunny morning before a rugby game. If the tide is right, you can walk to the island, but we travelled both ways on ‘Betty’. On the way there we were on wheels all the way but coming back the tide was in and things changed.

Thinking about our season, it’s been a bit like that return trip on ‘Betty’ – setting off, wheels firmly on the ground, knowing where we were going and feeling fairly safe. Half way across, the water suddenly started to pick ‘Betty’ up and drift her off the path. It felt a bit weird to say the least, especially as a different motor started up and we wallowed our way towards the shore, but not in a straight line.

Finally the wheels sort of found land, the motor changed back to a proper engine and we trundled our way back up the beach. It felt a lot like this season with Roth – started fine, went a bit adrift somewhere in the middle and looked like it might get seriously hairy, but finally the wheels hit the dry land and back on track.

CB

My hope for 2016/17 is to keep those wheels firmly on dry land and going forwards – I don’t like being adrift in a bus/boat, however ‘Charming’ it might be.