What to expect on Sunday

We are delighted that the youth and ladies sections return to St Mark’s on Sunday – as you might expect there are some changes from previous years. The club’s COVID guidelines along with links to other resources can be found here.

Before Training

Pre-Registration

All attendees to training are required to register on Spond, and accept the ‘event’ prior to attending. Please do not just turn-up without having first accepted the event in Spond. We recommend you download and install the Spond smart-phone app.

Spond will form the basis of the the clubs attendance records and be shared with Track and Trace if requested.

Self-Assessment

Prior to attending training and matches, all players, officials, volunteers and spectators should undergo a self-assessment for any Covid-19 symptoms.

No-one should leave home to participate in any type of rugby activity if they, or someone they live with has any of the following Covid-19 symptoms:

  • A high temperature
  • A new, continuous cough
  • A loss of, or change to, their sense of smell or taste

No-one should leave home to participate in any type of rugby activity if they, have been advised by NHS Track and Trace to self-isolate or has recently returned from a location for which quarantine is required.

Arrival & Parking

  • Sessions have been staggered to allow us to operate each age group within the prescribed guidelines. Please aim to arrive at the pitch no more than 10 minutes before your session time; and depart the pitch-area swiftly thereafter as we need to recycle the pitches.
  • Pitch allocations are on the site as usual twrfc.com/pitch-allocations
  • Parking at the clubhouse is limited (although we’ll try and accommodate as many cars as possible). The top car-park (nearest clubhouse) is reserved for coaches carrying kit; we will be operating a drop-off through the main-carpark. Please park considerately for our neighbours.
  • Please try to limit the number of adults onsite to one/child. When deciding who’s turn it is, then we’d suggest whichever parent is most likely to spend money in the Cafe is the best choice.
  • Where possible follow the government’s safer travel guidelines.

What to Bring

All members are asked to arrive at the club changed and ready to play. The use of any changing rooms or showers is not permitted.

In addition to all the usual items, layers, sun-screen, money to spend in the cafe. Please also make sure your child has:

  • Their own Hand Sanitiser
  • Gum-shield (for U9s and above)
  • Their own water bottle
  • A face-mask (if you want to use the cafe).

Gumshields and Kit

TWRFC Kit

TWRFC Kit is available online from Akuma https://akumashops.com/twrfc (password TWRFC).

Akuma are sending me some sizing samples, which will be available to view on the decking outside the Cafe; along with those items of residual items of stock we still have in the club-shop.

Socks and face-masks are available to purchase from the cafe.

Gumshields

Opro will not be visiting St Mark’s this season, they feel the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from player to dentist and/or dentist to player is too high to be acceptable. As an alternative they are sending out Home Impression Kits.

Parents just need to place their orders over on our website; https://www.opro.com/Catalogue/Shop-Mouthguards and a HIK will be sent directly to their home address.

Boots & Studs

If purchasing new boots please make sure they comply with World Rugby Regulation 12 – the RFU’s guides on boots and clothing can be found here: https://keepyourbootson.co.uk/rugbysafe/rugbysafe-essential-guides-resources/

The Clubhouse, Cafe and Bar

The café will be open and we are delighted to be able to keep you supplied with Teas/Coffees/Hot Chocolate, Martha’s fabulous Bacon/Sausage baps and all the other products we sell form the café.

Unfortunately, upstairs will continue to be off limits for the time being. Downstairs will be open for the use of toilets only and to facilitate the use of the café.

 All members are asked to arrive at the club changed and ready to play. The use of any changing rooms or showers is not permitted.

There are a few rules we need to you to be aware of/comply with when using the Clubhouse and Café :  –

  1. There are hand sanitising dispensers at every entrance. Please use them as you enter the building and observe social distancing when inside
  2. Please do not use the front entrance, even if it is open. Upstairs is off limits for the time being
  3. Please enter the Café via the exterior door and exit down the corridor and out of the glass door. If someone is coming in that way (to use the toilets) please use best judgement to observe social distancing guidelines
  4. No more than one family group in the Café at one time (up to a maximum of three people)
  5. Please wear a face mask
  6. Stand back from the countertop and don’t lean on it. (there is tape on the floor to guide distancing)
  7. Café staff will ask for your name and which age group you are with to comply with track and trace
  8. Queues are likely given the longer time needed to serve people while complying with the guidelines. Please move through the Café as quickly as possible
  9. Use the glass door (facing the pitch) to enter the clubhouse for the toilets but please be aware of point no.2 ..i.e. people coming out of the building from the café.
  10. The deck is open but please observe social distancing guidelines
  11. Bins will be provided for cups etc. Please do not use the dog bin by the gate

If a queue develops for the café could parents please form the queue as per the screen shot below. (the deck doesn’t show obviously)

Next to the cafe we have a new decked area. Although there are a few finishing touches left to do you are welcome to use it, just please observe the current distancing rules & please try not to drop tomato sauce on our lovely new decking.

Weather permitting we will displaying clothing from our new kit supplier Akuma on the new deck. There will also a chance to purchase surplus stock at very reasonable prices.    

Inside the clubhouse you will notice there is new artwork on several of the main corridor walls. We hope you like it!

The Session

Sessions will follow the (constantly changing) RFU and Government guidance. Currently we are at stage D of the Return to Community Rugby Roadmap. The club’s COVID guidelines along with links to other resources can be found here.

Key differences being:

  • Sessions will be conducted in groups of no more than 20, larger groups will be split and will not mix. This is one of the reasons we ask you to pre-register in Spond.
  • Equipment will be cleansed on a regular basis (ball – every 15 minutes, other items – between each use). Players will be asked to sanitize their hands every 15 minutes.
  • Session time is limited to 60 minutes for Under 7 & Under 8 and 75 minutes for Under 9 and above. Contact time (for U9s and above) is limited to 15 minutes/session and will happen in smaller groups.
  • Parents are welcome to watch the session (for Mini’s we ask that you do – so you are available to assist your child if they require it); but are asked to maintain social distancing whilst doing so.

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….

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).