Senior Rugby Update

We didn’t think rugby could get much worse after experiencing one of the wettest winters I can remember and then a virus that brought the country to a standstill. The RFU and League committee’s decided on the final league positions and there were a few key changes in many leagues that decided promotion and relegation, hugely emotive to those impacted.

We are still within the early stages of an RFU ‘return to rugby’ plan and since the first Thursday in July Dave, Simon, Mav and Chaz have been constructing training sessions that incorporate the skills within an enjoyable environment (Russ, as always, is also there should you tweak anything) – numbers are c40 with some new faces to the club, last season’s regulars, Academy and some of the guys that played but didn’t train too often last year – everyone is welcome, so if you haven’t yet started to train come along, the season soon creeps up on you.

Thank you for all those players that completed the survey at the end of last season, we have analysed the feedback and the challenge is for us, as a club, to make things better. You will see some changes around structure of membership fees and method of payment, some extensive work around pitch improvements and we aim to be a more inclusive club for all.

Only this week the RFU have stated that September games have been reallocated to Dec/Jan and that there will be 4 weeks between their decision to start full contact rugby and the league season with the next update being 1st Sept. There is some great work going on around the club, but, as we get nearer the start of the season there are always many jobs that need willing volunteers, if anyone has some spare time please do get in touch.

I know we all want competitive rugby to start as soon as possible and I am confident that the RFU has covered every scenario of potential start dates. Hopefully see you all at the club in the near future, whether that’s to train, play, attend a lunch, drink or just watch.

Stuart Montgomery

Club Finances

Although both the weather and COVID worked against us towards the end of last season, the Club’s finances have remained stable. The last financial year ended on 31 March and despite the enforced postponement of the Annual Ball (one of our main fundraising events) our income held up well thanks to higher income from membership subscriptions and the positive impact of several new sponsors. After operating costs, the Club’s net income improved thanks to lower expenditure throughout all sections.

The new financial year started in lockdown and our focus throughout the spring and summer, apart from planning for an uncertain start to a new rugby season, has been on managing our cash flow. So far we have largely achieved that thanks to various government support schemes, lettings and the generosity of minis parents following the cancellation of their tour.  

The normal start of the new playing season is now very close but it is now clear that competitive club rugby will not resume until December (based on information as of 5 August). It is quite hard to predict what next season will look like, and the Club is reviewing a range of scenarios and will continue to actively manage its cash flow. At present the Board believes that TWRFC will remain in a stable financial position given the current challenges confronting all sports clubs. In the immediate future:

  • We anticipate that youth rugby will be possible from the start of the season (some age-groups have already experimented with training under current government and RFU guidelines). Judging by the numbers attending this week’s Multi-sports Camp organised by NZ Rugby experience there is a real demand from members of our youth section to resume sporting activity, and we are optimistic that most will renew their membership for another year in August/September.
  • Attracting new sponsors will obviously be a challenge (although we’ll certainly be trying) and we will also need to work at retaining the many loyal sponsors who have supported the Club in the past, some of whom are committed to multi-year sponsorship.
  • Bar revenues are probably our biggest concern if the bar remains closed during the important autumn months. On the bright side we have successfully opened the new downstairs café on Saturday afternoons during July allowing members to enjoy a drink and some socially distanced chat. If the weather holds, we could resume that after the holiday period when members can also admire the new decking along the front of the clubhouse.

Don Bailey
Club Treasurer
5 August 2020

Youth Section Update

TWRFC Youth Section are confident that we will bring rugby back in the first weekend of September which is the traditional start of the rugby season. Last year was challenging to say the least so we are really excited that we have measures in place to get the season started, regardless of any restrictions that remain in place. This year, as soon as we were allowed, we had age groups back at the club training using innovative ways of maintaining social distancing whilst enhancing rugby skills and fitness. Watching kids playing touch with one metre pipe lagging was something I never expected to see!

We are now working hard with the coaching teams from the U6’s through to our Academy to look at different ways of delivering training, how we will use our space and how we will make TWRFC a Covid secure environment. We have secured further space at the club to expand the already enormous facilities we have and have set up a full season of fixtures for the youth age groups working on the mantra that a positive outlook will bring good luck! We have sanitising points throughout the club and when you come back you will see that much work has taken place over the summer to make the clubhouse look fantastic as ‘Fortress St Marks’ We have a new cafe so you can get coffee and hot food on Sunday mornings and generally the club is in a really good place.

As you can imagine, Covid has hit the club hard so I am hopeful that we will see many people renewing their membership early on as the cash flow assist us in investing further in playing and facilities at the club. We have a really thriving youth section. Last season we had over 100 kids in our U6’s (Year 1 and Reception age) and overall had over 600 young people training or competing on Sunday’s. Lets continue that this season despite any challenges and, lets face, it can’t be harder than last year.

I can’t wait to see you back at the club in September and in the meantime if anybody has any thoughts on how we can take the youth section forward or if you would like to volunteer to help out then please let me know.
See you in September and #COYW!


Laurence
Youth Chairman

President’s update

The challenges presented by the Coronavirus restrictions are certainly the biggest faced by us in my over 50 year association with the Club. In fact one would probably have to go back to the Second World War when the Club closed for 6 years, to find anything equivalent. We bounced back from that and I have every confidence that we will come through the current difficulties stronger and with a renewed relish for our Game.

I am encouraged to see that training has restarted at all levels with the young in particular getting some much needed physical exercise after being in lockdown for so long. It’s also about getting out to meet old friends again because Rugby is very much a game  where lasting friendships are forged; I still have friends in the Club I played rugby with at School. It will be that spirit and a shared purpose that will see the Club through these difficult times and on to a brighter future.

Club spirit is in the right place and the Board is very active in managing the current situation and putting plans in place for the future. I am confident that all will work out well.

On a domestic note I have appointed 5 new Vice Presidents in a deserved recognition of their services to the Club over many years. Tim Collins, Bruce Elliott, Martin Slattery, Brian Whiting and Matt Wilkey will be joining the VP ranks from the beginning of the season, and I look forward to the return of normality when I will be able to welcome them properly.
So, stay confident about the future and please take every opportunity to involve yourself in Club activities even if it’s only coming up for a social beer on the new decking.

Alan Skinner
Club President

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.