Agy and Tui

I just wanted to provide an update on Tui and Agy following my ask for assistance just over a month ago.

Most will remember that Agy and Tui arrived in the UK just before Christmas to enjoy the experience of a new country and play a bit of rugby! They arrived and fitted into the club straight away enjoying both the rugby and the off field activities. They did say they had never experienced such weather as it never seemed to stop raining. I did reassure them that it doesn’t normally rain this much and our grounds are never normally this wet! The latter might have been a small white lie!

The guys found work, rented a flat in town and were having a great time and then……. Covid-19 arrived. They were out of work, unable to travel and unable to play rugby. All this and nowhere near their families or homes.

I put a request out to ask for funds as they were experiencing hardship and we were trying to help to get them home whilst keeping them fed/watered with a roof over their head in the meantime. Many of you were very generous and supported the boys with both monies and food/drink. We kept the cash to one side and Stu Montgomery, Wicko and Jim got to work to try and get them home.

I have to say the boys were delighted with the support from the members and felt very much part of our community. After two bookings for flights home which did not fly Stu did eventually find them a flight that did go (via Qatar). They got back to NZ, completed their 14 day quarantine period and are now back home with their families. So a very happy ending for the two boys and hopefully we will welcome them back at some point in the future.

So thank you for your support which kept them fed, watered and got them home safely. Your support for their hardship is much appreciated by myself and the boys.

Mike

The TWRFC History Quiz

Work is underway to update photography around the club house – one of the things we want to reflect more is the clubs history.

That is where you come in – we’ve already found a number of images but the year they were taken remains a mystery. Do you recognise any players in these photographs, can you tell us the year they were taken?

In addition if you have any interesting photographs you think would look good on the wall at the club house please send any copies/scanned image to me at drewraine@hotmail.com

Coach development survey results

The two most popular times for those looking to do training are Monday and Wednesday evenings, with the weekend trailing behind.  From a club perspective, I am going to mainly target Monday evenings for our coach development.

Preferred time: 

  • Monday evening – 70% 
  • Wednesday evening – 57% 
  • Sunday AM – 40% 
  • Sat AM – 28%

We unsurprisingly lose coaches as the travel distance increases from Tun Wells. Anything we do in-club will generally be at St Mark’s, but I think the data shows that we retain enough coaches to make jointly sponsored courses with TJs and Sevenoaks viable (Especially as we would rotate venue for any jointly sponsored course). There is a slightly higher drop-off when not home at weekends, presumably as coaches have their kids with them at the club.

Attendance drop-off with distance (Monday evenings): 

  • Home – 68% (#2)
  • TJs – 61%
  • Sevenoaks – 43%
  • Further than Sevenoaks – 14%

In respect of the courses that TWRFC coaches are seeking to attend (filtered to exclude any non-age appropriate requests), there’s quite an even distribution of courses, with only the age-grade specific CPDs standing out from the pack.

I’ll use this data along with input from our DOR (Jim), Youth Chair (Laurence), Mini’s chair (Fat-Pants) to inform the requests we make of the RFU. I am also liasing with my counterparts at TJs and Sevenoaks to see if we can pool our demand for some jointly sponsored course requests.

Similarly there’s a pretty even distribution of interest in Technical Sessions ran internally. With the only clear outlier being handling (which was the focus of Simon’s last excellent session).

Notes: 
(#1) About 50% of the coaches completed the coach development survey
(#2) This is filtered to requests for age-appropriate CPDs – which is the discrepancy between 70% above, and the 68%.

Match report: TWRFC VETS 36: 5 MAIDSTONE VETS

With New Ash Green, Orpington and Vigo drawn in the league phase of the vets cup the vets were keen to get off to a winning start, and put the disappointment of last season behind them, with a friendly against Maidstone. It’s a crying shame then that nobody explained what the word ‘friendly’ means- to that hairy brutish jock, Mac the strife- or we might have ended the match with 15 on the pitch…and he wouldn’t have had to slink back to the clubhouse in disgrace, his bruised knuckles dragging along the ground. And all this after only 3 minutes of game time. Fortunately for him the red was renegotiated to yellow post match, thanks to the leniency of the ref, the sweetness of ale and the grace of the opposition 6 who, in fairness, was not exactly lily-white where the throwing of punches was concerned.

It also proved a low brow afternoon for Rainbow Rob Harrison who has clearly taken against agricultural pursuits during the summer break (perhaps a farmer turned him down?) and who therefore spent the entire game moaning at team mates who dropped the ball to ’stop shovelling shit’ His mood somewhat improved when he scored and by the end of the match, thank goodness, he seemed to have entirely gotten over his aversion to the passing on effluence. He was joined in his try scoring endeavour by the mercurial Beamo, the greedy Jake (who bagged two), Mr Charles Sleightholme, whose boot served us well all afternoon, and our very own Bilbo Baggins, Mr. Azurdia; standing in for Milo as team midget whilst the latter hitched a ride in Roger Clarke’s pocket to watch the ones play in Guernsey.

Up front Father Ed was back in action after a lengthy lay out. He not only lasted an entire half, leaning against the opposition scrum and causing huge problems simply by virtue of his weight, but also produced a perfect offload – picked up by a marauding Si Parsons which then led to a score. Prop Power! They were assisted in the front row by ten minute Tim McCabe, whose impromptu speeches stirred our souls, and the Methuselah of rugby old man Maynard. Nick Baldock was happy to add to this gorgeous assortment of bulk and heft so it was fortunate that a highly skilled back row of the ever niggardly Tiggy, the awkwardly lumpy Craney, the undeniably heroic yellowman and ever steady Zak, linking up with Rob, were on hand to make it to the break downs. Joking aside some of the link up play in the forwards was first rate with Craney’s impressive ball carrying leading him to be nominated as man of the match.

Not that the girlie backs were shirking. They ran some fabulous lines all afternoon keeping cool heads when playing under pressure. Nick Derbyshire and Charlie Hacker combined well in the centres and barely missed a tackle. Beamo marshalled them well from the back. Jake was a menace with the ball all afternoon ensuring the cocky reputation of scrum halves remains in tact. Steve Daley (happy birthday) and Andy Cunningham were reliable when called on and a great debut from Tim Mole ensured all left the field with heads held high. Indeed it was a great first game against an experience and decent Maidstone side. Bring on the tournament.

Finally a mention to the ref- our very own Croker. He not only red carded one of his own but ensured we knew the new rules by pinging us for every high tackle and every backchat. Not an easy task against the gabbiest of old boys. And so we all trooped back to the bar for a well earned chilli con carne and an excellent game of beer pong. The highlights of which were watching Pengelly taken apart with alcohol. And the suggestion that Mac should get but three grains of rice and a teaspoon of chilli to reflect the amount of work he did on the pitch! Good game, good guys, good banter, good beer pong session. Another good season is brewing for the vets….

The Best Kept Secret

As members we all know that TWRFC is great family orientated club offering a brilliant atmosphere for members and players to enjoy their rugby. As part of the three year development plan the club is getting even better – a short way into 2019/20 season and we’ve already seen new playing kit across the club (kudos to the sponsorship team), improvements in club house audio visual, pitch side PA and gym. More events are in the pipeline and many of you will have seen initial plans for ground floor catering to improve the pitch side experience – and all of that is just for starters!

Yet outside of our membership do many people know much about the club, its aims, the atmosphere and facilities?

TWRFC has been described as one of Tunbridge Wells best kept secrets – and that is something we are trying to change.

We are actively trying to improve awareness of the club through:

• Improved social media – look and feel and content

• Increased press coverage beyond first team match reports – see this weeks Times of Tunbridge Wells for coverage of our “SOS Kit Aid” campaign

• Fixture list posters around town,

• We’ve put in a schedule of all Youth Teams to submit stories so people can see the engagement across all age groups,

• We are looking at more prominent advertising around town,

• Having stands at local events,

• Making our first team home fixtures more of an event.

But what more can we do? Do you have any suggestions for stories, events or anything that could raise the profile of the club to wider community? If you do drop a comment below or email me at drewraine@hotmail.com.

Look forward to hearing from you!

#oneTWRFC

2019/20 Budget

Following on from the page-turner that was the update on the club shop. I continue my series of bestsellers with an update on the 2019/20 budget.

Our Chairman Mike alluded to the club finances in his earlier update. The recent loss of several key sponsors, coinciding with the higher running costs of being at level 5 meant things were starting to look a little tight. Arguably that’s not entirely new news – the club finances have been a bit ‘tight’ for the last two years.

The commercial team have already been very active, both to engage with new potential sponsors, and also to make sure that our sponsors receive a compelling proposition from the Club. Whilst there is still work to be done – the picture is already looking slightly more positive.

The exec have now set the 2019/20 budget:

To call out a few areas of note:

  • Commercial income (which basically covers all income generated from sources other than membership and the bar):
    YoY increase of 13%.  This is going to take some work!  The planned increase comes through:

    1. Engaging with and attracting new sponsors. Without wanting to steal Simon’s thunder (commercial team blog to follow) – the recent addition of 6 youth sponsors is a great start to this and gives some confidence that the plan is achievable. Progress is also being made towards securing first-team sponsors, but these are not all fully confirmed yet.
    2. Making sure that the events we run are profitable (two events ran at a loss last year and we are keen not to repeat this).
  • Senior section running expenses:
    reduced 8.5% from last year (8.5% understates the real YoY reduction as it doesn’t account for the fact we also lost a key sponsor who was paying two players match-fees directly).  The majority of the reduction comes from lower coaching and kit costs.  Despite the overall reduction in Senior running costs, there is a slight increase in player match-fees, partially as a result of us now paying those players who were previously paid directly by a sponsor.
  • Projects
    A number of investment projects in the clubhouse and groups have been proposed. None of these are quite at a state for us to pull the trigger on – but we have held back some of the planned income to permit this
  • Membership Subs
    The exec have now set membership prices for 2019/20 at £200 for senior players and £150 for families. Whilst this represents a £10 increase, we remain incredibly competitive, particularly for families.
  • Bar/Kitchen and Other Clubhouse income
    This is held flat…  we hope to better this, but have planned conservatively.

Club shop update

Samurai have been managing the online store on the Club’s behalf for a season. During the last few months we’ve been looking into how to get the best experience from our relationship with Samurai, the conclusion of which is that we are asking them to hold too much bespoke TWRFC gear, and in some cases it makes sense to replace with core Samurai stock (explained below).

Our approach will be try and reduce the number of bespoke items we are using and holding stock for.

  • Where we really do need an ‘essential’ item to be bespoke (socks & playing shirts) – TWRFC will try to maintain a stock with Samurai.
  • Where we don’t really need an ‘essential’ item to be bespoke (shorts) – we will allow our stock to run-down and replace with a stock Samurai item.
  • Where an item is not ‘essential’ or there is not enough demand to hold stock (hoodies) – we will make these available to order via ‘order-windows’ (explained below).

Since we moved to Samurai – we still have some (assorted) stock left in the the St Marks’ club shop which we will be looking to sell if possible.. planning’s still under way, but a pop-up shop at the TJs game (30th Aug) and first-mini’s session (8th Sept) are likely.  If anybody is able to help with either please do get in touch (mcroker@gmail.com, 07770 936977).  The stock we have left to sell is generally some leisure items such as polo shirts, beanie hats, some umbrellas and also so rain-smocks, but not either shorts or socks.

Key changes

Item From
Youth playing shirts

Historically the youth section have had bespoke shirts with a different design for each age-group, and arrangement which has caused all sorts of logistical problems. These have not been available online.

Following the generosity of our youth sponsors (and some hard work by Andre and Simon) we are moving to a single shirt design across the entire youth section.  Even better – the sponsors have all committed to TWRFC for 3 years. More communication on this to come…

As the shirts are the same across the whole youth section – we will shortly be able to stock these online.

Socks

No change – these will remain ‘as is’

I have two batches on order – one of which has just arrived, but not yet been reflected in the online store (expect this next week – although the 1st team have grabbed a portion of the ‘L’s) and another one about 2-3 weeks behind.

Shorts

The cost/overhead of using bespoke shorts isn’t justified.

The residual TWRFC Bespoke White/Gold Trim Shorts will continue to be available through the online store whilst stocks last, but will not be replenished (the race is on to get the last 9 3XL shorts). We will replace with Samurai Stock Navy Shorts.

NB: If there’s enough demand for the white/gold trim shorts I will consider making these available via an order-window.

Blue/Pink Hoodies

I like these tops and intend to continue to make them available, but can’t justify the cost/overhead of holding stock for bespoke hoodies.  I will be allowing our stock of these to run-out and won’t be replenishing the online stock; instead these will be available using an order-window (explained below).

What’s an order-window?

Rather than holding stock of bespoke items, we can instead batch together your orders into an ‘order-window’.  We have done this before on a few occasions such as the chequered playing top, and it worked well. This provides a good compromise between making things available, and us having to hold the stock.  It also should help manage expectations of how long these items will take.

The way it works is that the bespoke items are added to the online store for a limited period of time (the ‘order-window).  At the end of the order-window, provided that the minimum order quantity has been met (usually 10 items) – the order will be batched together, manufactured and shipped to us.  Typically this will be 6-8 weeks from then end of the order-window.

Why? – Bespoke vs. Stock

The eagle-eyed may have noticed there are two types of item in the club shop:

  • Bespoke goods manufactured specifically for TWRFC: The can be identified by the tag “TONBRIDGE STOCK” and includes our custom hooped socks, the blue/pink hoodies, the match shorts with the white/gold trim and of course any playing tops.
  • Samurai stock goods which are customised with TWRFC logo: These can be identified by the tag “CORE STOCK” and includes pretty much anything else… blue hoodies, T-shirts, polo shirts, navy shorts, …

Bespoke goods are a bit of a pain – they have to be ordered by TWRFC in a minimum order quantity, and take 6-8 weeks to be manufactured and arrive into the online shop (compared with slightly over a week for the core stock).  Managing stock levels for core stock is also entirely Samurai’s responsibility (that’s not to say they never go out of stock – but it happens less frequently).

To try and make this a better experience for everybody the club (previously Michelle, now I) pre-orders some of the bespoke items and then holds them in stock at Samurai.  It’s a bit of a matter of guess-work, the club can’t afford to hold lots of excess kit and our demand is so ‘peaky’ that we sometime under/over order. Both under/over ordering cause issues – in one case the club ends up owning stock we can’t recover our costs from, and in the other goods people expected/need are not available for 6-8 weeks.

Wonga

Given I’m writing about Samurai – I also thought I’d answer a question raised at the AGM regarding what (if any) money the club makes from the online store.

The club does make a small amount of money on each item of clothing sold through the TWRFC club-shop – In return for appointing Samurai as our sole supplier of kit, Samurai give us a discount on all kit we order through them and also provide us a number of items free of charge (basically the first-team kit). Essentially our ‘slice’ is the difference between the online price and the club’s discounted price.

This isn’t a huge money spinner for us – and we try and keep TWRFC items at similar prices to those in the rest of the Samurai store (if you see an item that that isn’t the case for, please let me know).

Senior Update July 2019

I hope you are enjoying the break from rugby and taking the opportunity to watch and play all the other summer sports we invented and taught everyone else to play better than us!

Pre-season is going very well for the seniors and we are delighted to have Simon Whatling coaching alongside Aston Croall and a new management team of Jim Scully (DoR) and Stuart Montgomery and Steve Wickenden as Joint Chairs of Playing.

We have players joining every week and the vibe around the training ground is extremely positive.  Encourage players to come and join us – especially those who are returning from university and are looking to get back in the game.

All all players who wish to play this year including academy and social players are invited to pre-season training which has kicked off at St Marks, Tuesdays and Thursdays 7:30PM and Saturdays 9:30AM.

Congratulations to all those students who have graduated this year and we look forward to seeing you at St Marks very soon.

Mike’s first update

So it’s three weeks since the AGM and I already feel fully ensconced in the role of Chairman. I thought I would share a quick ‘Blog’ with my thoughts and what we are working on to ensure we deliver on our mandate.

So here is a whistle stop tour of what’s going on:

  • The first Board meeting was held last week in the new format. I have slightly expanded the Board to ensure it represents every aspect of our club: Seniors; Ladies; Operations; Commercial; House/Grounds; and of course the Youth. I asked each member to give an overview of their area and their aims for the year. We also had a good look at the financial budget for the year ahead and we all felt we are able to achieve good progress this year despite the loss of long terms sponsors like Axa.
  • The Board is fully focussed on our three main aims for this year:
    • Increase the number of volunteers across the club
    • Diversify and increase visibility of revenues
    • Build a development plan that is realistic and achievable
  • In terms of other news:
    • Steve Wickenden and Stuart Montgomery are settling in well to their roles of Co-Chairs of Playing. They are working smoothly alongside Jim Scully as Director of Rugby.The Seniors are back training and we are seeing good numbers enjoying the best in class coaching of Simon and Aston. The squad have welcomed a healthy number of new players and have already had the first social of the year!! Three pre-season games are arranged with a super local derby vs TJ’s on 31st August. Should be a great day up the club.
    • The Ladies section are already back training and have their Rachel Burford summer camp coming up on 14th August.
    • The Youth section is in planning mode but has the big and very enjoyable Kiwi camp coming up on 5th August. Sign up for guaranteed fun!
    • Nick Van O is full steam ahead in his House and grounds role and hopefully you will see/feel a few changes around the clubhouse soon.
    • Michelle and Martin are working hard to get us ready for the new season with Playing shirts, Kit, Membership and newsletters
    • The next big event to have in your diary is the Summer Ball, please do get this in your diary and contact Michelle for tickets. https://twrfc.com/news/twrfc-summer-ball-28th-september-2019//
    • Lastly, we are working really hard on our commercial ambitions and if you have any one we should contact for sponsorship/partnerships do let me know.

Lastly, I am enjoying the challenge of getting us ready for the new season and whilst we have come up against a few challenges we are relishing them. Can’t wait to see you up the club soon. If you feel you can help us in any way then please let us know, all volunteers are welcome.

One Club, #oneTWRFC

Mike

Development Update: January 2019

Since our last club development update, the Board of TWRFC have invited a sub-committee formed of club experts in the building, legal and land development areas, to look at the progress achieved on this topic to date. In doing so they have reviewed all of the key documents, advice received and the various approaches made to us.

The group comprises three club members who work close to or in the development field and are: Jim Hendley (Life VP), Mike Vos (VP) and Richard Baines (Member).

This group spent some weeks carrying out a detailed analysis and presented their findings to the January Board meeting. In summary and following this presentation the Board has determined that any future domestic development or land swaps are likely to take a number of years. This is because of the legal complexities around split ground ownership, split planning authorities (Tunbridge Wells and Wealden) and the current development environment in our area of the town as well as the difficulty in obtaining ownership of a suitable land swap site through developers financing.

Given this assessment it has been concluded that the likely time scale for any major change to this assessment is probably 10 years plus as a minimum.

As a result the Board has now determined to ask the group to look at options for developing St Marks.within the 10 year timescale.

In drawing up such plans we have asked them to address the various areas we see as priorities (in no particular order):

    Increasing the parking availability

    Extending the Club room on the first floor of the clubhouse.

    Improving the drainage to pitches two and three (to the same standard as Pitch one).

We have also started to look beyond the clubs present boundaries to potentially solve some of these challenges as site capacity may become a greater challenge to the youth section as it continues to grow.

Finally, and longer term, once we have acquired or leased further land we have asked the Sub –committee to look at the potential for developing the current fourth pitch next to the Cala homes development. This will be looked at in conjunction with the Board who will examine the potential for grant and self funding as well as prudent loans for these projects.

As things progress we will continue to update you and will ensure that this topic is included on the Agenda for the 2019 TWRFC Ltd. AGM ( provisionally fixed for Monday 24th June 2019).

Roger Clarke
TWRFC President