Chairman’s Update

Members and friends of TWRFC,

As we have recently seen a return to rugby and sport at St Marks I thought it timely to provide an update on the club. 

Pleasing as it is to see the latest lockdown conclude and rugby resume, there is no doubt that the pandemic has touched every single one of us. Many of you have personally caught the virus, most know someone who has been significantly impacted by the virus and all of us will have felt some negative impact. Unfortunately some club members and friends of the club have paid the ultimate sacrifice and our condolences are with all their families.

 Whilst we have had little actual rugby to enjoy this year, the Board has remained focused on the Club with perhaps a greater focus on the future of the club. Our thoughts have turned to our ambitions for the club over the next 10 years and what we would like the club to look and feel like in our centenary year (2031). Whilst 10 years seems like an age away, this is the horizon we look to when we assess our broader development plans. Also, as we know time flies when you are having fun, it was only 10 years ago that I made my vets debut……..or maybe slightly longer. 

So, let me take you on a quick trip through the club and give you an update:
The Senior Section: 

We have three very divergent parts of our Senior club: The Elite squad; The Social side; and of course the Vets. But this year they have been united in playing no fixtures! There is of course a clear divergence in one matter: Training. The Elite squad have trained hard and benefitted from our fantastic coaching team…..The Vets have not trained for rugby at all but have made several videos that have entertained tremendously through lockdown. The social sides are in a happy place in the middle.

The Elite squad has recently resumed training and in fact recently enjoyed a friendly game of touch with TJ’s. They will shortly break for the summer before returning early for pre-season training. We have a couple of pre-season friendlies lined up and are very optimistic of a full season of competitive rugby. Most will now be aware that we have been joined at training by Ben Kayser who has given a real added dimension to forwards training. I also recently advised that Simon has departed to pursue new opportunities, Stuart and Dave are busy establishing our new structure for the new season. We have also started the drive to build a squad for next season and please do spread the word of our club, its ambition and culture. Thanks to all our senior coaches and players. We can’t wait to see you back in action next year.

It’s good to be back – Elite Squad training

The Youth section:

This year has been extremely different for our youth section. No fixtures, no festivals, large periods of no physical training and lots of online activities organised to help our members through lockdown. In case you have not heard, as he has told just about everyone he has met, Tommo has successfully managed to take our Under 6 age group (years reception and one) to 150 members. This is just outstanding and demonstrates the strong local demand for getting kids active. It also shows the tremendous role we provide to our community. We now have over 730 youth members and it has been great to see so many of them back at St Marks recently.

The reason for the success of our youth section is very clear: The incredible volunteer coaches that support every single age group. These ladies and men get qualified, plan sessions, complete endless admin, prepare kit, turn up bright faced and deliver an exceptional experience for our members week in week out. Thank you.

Thank you one and all you are keeping the future of TWRFC very much alive and growing. Thanks to Laurence, Martin and Alex for Chairing the Youth and the Mini’s.

Just a few of our 150 U6 players!

The Academy: 

Following the return to play the Academy also returned raring to go but with a minimum period before we could taken on opposition in competitive games we had a lot to do to get ourselves ready.

But with the hope of games before we close down again for the summer numbers and energy at training has been fantastic. Linking up with the U15’s, who will be formally coming into the Academy set up next September, we have had some really productive sessions.

It is so encouraging to see how keen the boys are to be back and play this great sport. We are still building but clearly the fundamental foundations from which we build are stronger than ever.

Huge thanks to our first team players who are helping out and doing a brilliant job, Max Douch and Matt Spicer. Big thanks to Andy and all the academy coaches.

The Ladies section: 

Despite the lockdown the U11’s, U13’s and U15’s have all grown with new players keen to enjoy social sport. This has made the Wednesday and Sunday sessions busy and a lot of fun. The noise is tremendous to hear across St Marks.

The Over 18’s (Adults!) with new members are growing and this is all before our inner warrior session on the 9th May. The squad are enjoying getting back to sport, improving the fitness and core skills. They are also enjoying playing the new RFU adapted touch game.

As the end of season beckons the ladies section also has the Rachel Buford camp to look forward to on the 31st May. Should be a fun end to the season.

Well done Simon and all the Coaches. But also well done to all the players, you have a real sense of community and are the fastest growing section of the club.

Ladies O18 Squad showing their Inner Warriors

So lastly to the running of the club and the area we have spent time on during lock down.

The Commercial team

I would like to thank all our sponsors for their unwavering support this year. Every single one of them continued their support for our great Community club. They have helped us keep going, engage with our members and continue to invest in the fabric of the club. We also have doubled our efforts to give as much social media coverage for their support as possible. I hope to welcome them back up to the club soon to personally thank them.

We are under no illusion the ability to get new sponsors next year will be harder and hence if you are able to help support Simon Hughes and Andre Van Zijl it would be most welcomed.

The Operations: 

Membership: Has been a huge success this year as we transitioned to SPOND. No doubt this has helped us perform track and trace as well as tracking membership fees. A record year for membership collection. Thank you for your support of your club. 

Covid-19 Policies: Who would have thought we would celebrate our ability to react to the relevant Government and RFU CV-19 guidelines. But we have trained at every opportunity because we have adjusted our approach to stay safe. Thanks to all involved in keeping us legal/safe and training. 

Pitches: Well this is the first year we haven’t cancelled training for the weather!! Mainly because we haven’t been up the club in Dec/Jan/Feb. We have invested though and they are looking good.

Clubhouse: The cafe trades on (for takeaways) and the decking is a great place to carry your produce over. Hopefully these will both come into their own over the summer.

The Future of the Club: 

You will all have seen our recent posts on how we wish to focus our attentions on future ground improvements. We have started to progress plans in this regard with brand new drainage systems going into pitches two and three. We are also progressing our thoughts for an alternative grass pitch and will provide a further update within the next two months. The latter has a thirst for volunteers and so please do let myself or Steve Daly know if you can spare a few moments to help us plan for 2031. 

So in summary:

–          Not the year any of us wanted, but we have kept on performing our valuable role in our community.

–          We have a growing youth and ladies section

–          We have a successful academy

–          We are ever closer to our #oneTWRFC ambition

–          The number of volunteers are growing but we do need more!

–          We are financially stable and operationally organised

–          We have direction and purpose for the future of St Marks.

Thank you to all our many volunteers and to everyone who keeps TWRFC at the heart of our Community.

COYW

Mike

Club Chairman

#oneTWRFC



Simon Whatling to step down

Head Coach Simon Whatling has decided to step down from his role at Tunbridge Wells RFC to take on a new challenge as attack coach at Tonbridge Juddians.  Simon has been with TWRFC since 2017 when he joined us ahead of our first season in the London and South East Premier League.  The coaching team of Whatling and his long time friend and team mate Dave Allen were successful at TWRFC for two seasons finishing fifth and then seventh in the league before Allen retired in 2019.  The curtailed 2019/20 season ended with TWRFC in a respectable sixth place.  Before joining TW Simon was with Blackheath for 4 years and made 55 consecutive appearances.  An all-round sportsman, Simon excelled at many different sports as a boy before cementing his love of rugby at Bath Rugby Academy, where he represented England at U16 and U21 level.  Prior to joining Blackheath Simon played for London Welsh, Cornish Pirates and Worcester.  Club Chairman Mike Rigby said “It was a pleasure for everyone involved to have Simon as part of our coaching team and we are sorry to lose his knowledge and ability along with his good humour.  Simon is still very much part of the TW family as his son plays his mini rugby at St Marks. Our senior management team of  Stuart Montgomery and Dave Marshall are looking forward to a full season of rugby with a new coach at the helm and several new player signings”.

We wish Simon every success at TJs.

 

TWRFC U6s Fly Past Membership Record

Tunbridge Wells RFC Youth Section have set a new milestone record by surpassing the 150 registered members in the Under-6 age group.  This new record highlights the dedication, and safe environment the coaches provide for our members.

Tom Callaway, the Under 6s Head Coach said “this is an incredible milestone for the club.  It’s been great to get back to training, and many new members have joined because they’ve heard of how enjoyable our sessions are.  We have a really good team of volunteer coaches, who have all been incredible in helping to deliver our ethos of fun and engaging training.  The future of this team is looking fantastic, and am proud to be associated with a club that has helped support such a large, expanding group”.

If all the members of the U6s rugby journey sees them into senior rugby with Tunbridge Wells RFC, this would be the equivalent of 10 full playing sides for the club at this level. The future of the club is certainly looking bright.

The U6s welcome boys, and girls into the group, with Tom Callaway adding “it’s about encouraging everyone to be a part of our team.  We’re seeing more girls joining this age group every year, which is great testament to the club’s involvement in supporting the women’s game”.

Among the comments received from parents, one said “every week my son comes back with a huge smile on his face, he’s loving his rugby here”.

For more information on TWRFC Youth Section please go to www.twrfc.com/youth

Kinsale 2003

And following yesterday’s recollections of the 2011 Kinsale Tour……

…a trip down memory lane to Kinsale 2003 courtesy of Mr Geoff Casely.

Enjoy

x

Kinsale 2011 Tour – 10th Anniversary memories…….

This May Bank Holiday weekend marks the 10th Anniversary of the club’s first ‘modern-day’ tour to Kinsale.

That the 2011, 2012 and 2014 “Believe” Tour took place at all was on the back of what Ron Birkby quite rightly describes as “groundbreaking” trips a decade or so earlier (and for “fans” of the 2003 Tour keep your eyes pealed for a trip down memory lane tomorrow…..)

Of course, much of what took place in County Cork in 2011 falls under the hallowed “What goes on tour, stays on tour” rule….thankfully…. #wgotsot.

However, there are some stories that can be shared which when coupled with the photo gallery below, will serve to evoke and stir very fond memories for all that made the trip.

We left from the club at 10.30 on Friday 29th April, many of us after a “slap up” breakfast and beers…as if we needed a head start lol…..at Spoons. The Forwards were to wear crowns and the Backs wore eminently suitable tiaras as homage to the Royal Wedding of William and Kate that very day.

As Tour Priest I was immediately to work as the first rehearsal of my Tour Choir (Masters Dedman, Sparkhall, Maynard, Montgomery and the Corcorans – Josh and Cam) and then a premiere performance took place at Gatwick, with another on arrival at Cork airport. The boys worked hard and were mighty impressive….even if I say so myself, performing at each Tour Court and throughout all four days. In 2012 we added a Cheerleader Squad and 2014 a Mariachi band playing ukeles and distributing Doritos and dips, but I think it’s fair to say that the 2011 Choir remains the pinnacle. We performed at the 2011 Club Supper too:-https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yBnT3otovRA&feature=youtu.be

Whilst off the pitch activities largely fall under the #wgotsot rule, the on-field activities deserve pride of place here.

We entered two teams – one in the Junior Open and a second Veteran 10s team. I think it is pretty fair to say that the TW Animal Surgeons (Vets….see what we did there?) were not at their best during the Saturday morning qualifying session. However, we did enough to make it through to the Final against the local undefeated Kinsale Vets. It was “big game” time now and we even stopped drinking(ish) an hour before kick off in readiness as possible glory awaited…..and we grabbed it with both hands beating the locals 10-7 with JC and Bobby G to the fore, and with a phenomenal late cover tackle from Mr Paul Miles securing the win. Cue major celebrations and another Murphys or ten (County Cork being Murphys not Guinness territory).

The Kinsale Sevens prided itself in being the largest 7s tournament in Europe at the time and, consequently, despite fielding a very talented First/Second team squad, more losses than wins on Day One meant we would be playing in the Junior Plate knockout event on the Sunday……and more of that shortly.

Unless you have been to Kinsale on Sevens weekend, it is hard to emphasise quite how brilliantly organised the event is. Everyone in this gorgeous fishing village is involved in the event and the atmosphere throughout the place is electric – all day and all night! Before hitting the nightlife on Saturday we had booked a full squad dinner at our base, the famous Trident Hotel. The Animal Surgeons were still basking in the aura of victory and we all needed a good feed to sustain us by now. And what a feed it was – “Potato….Potato….Potato!” Steak & Kidney Pie and carrots, garnished with “Roast Potatoes, Chips and Mash”….the days of famine were clearly over 

We arrived at the ground on Sunday morning anticipating a full days drinking, and given a boisterous evening’s entertainment, just a limited amount of rugby to watch from the TW team. How wrong we were…..showing admirable “bouncebackability”, three morning wins suddenly saw the boys reach the afternoon quarter and semi finals and then….suddenly….we were in the Final! I have no doubt that the raucous touchline support contributed (fuelled by some superb “liberation” of beer vouchers by that morning’s Mustard & Ketchup slaves messrs Claridge and Crees junior)…..as did Andy Hill’s charismatic leadership as Band Master that saw the rest of the squad take to the field in marching band formation at half-time in each of their games.

And on to the Junior Men’s Plate Final – held on the main pitch in front of a very large Sunday afternon crowd. Alex Maynard and David Sparkhall’s “wheels” had been key weapons all day but in the final it was some of the older heads – Tiggy Bartley, Rob Harrison, James Gwinnett and Killian Casey who stepped up. However, leading 24-19 in the final seconds, there was dismay when our opponents crossed in the corner and had a touchline conversion to win it. Thankfully, it sailed wide and the Tour Priest and Tour Chairman John Crees were quickly on the case with the organisers over who should be awarded the win.

The rules quite clearly stated that no extra time was to be played and that the winner would be the side that had scored the first try. Once we became aware that the referee and the opposition were actually unsure as to which team had crossed the whitewash first, Mr Crees was “on fire” as he explained that “rules is rules” and that we had scored the first try. Such was his utter conviction that no one argued and we were the champions – the honest truth is that no one actually knew who’d scored first (well apart from Mr Crees and I it seemed and, shall we say, I think it’s fair to suggest that we “liberated” this one too….)

Different tourists make for different tours and I, personally, had great enjoyment from the next two to Kinsale as well, as I was able to share them with more friends and both my sons. However, Kinsale 2011 remains up there with the very fondest of rugby memories for yours truly and, no doubt, all in attendance.

GW

Band Meister Andy Hill with his erstwhile side-kick Francesco Colangelo
Congregating pre-Tour at St Marks…..
Tour Choir’ s first “overseas” performance at Cork airport
“Court” at The Trident….Dom Palacio took an early lead in the TC (if you know you know!) classification and managed to keep the yellow jersey for most of the weekend from memory!
The Nelson brothers as the Mustard and Ketchup slaves….
And Messrs Dry and Withers performing the same role….and bloody good we were too!
The Kinsale Sevens official “Roll of Honour”
TW Animal Surgeons – 2011 Kinsale Veterans 10s Champions of the World
TWRFC – Kinsale 2011 Junior Plate Winners

100 Club – April Draw

The results of the April draw were:
1st prize £250 no.73 Rob Harrison.
2nd prize £100 no.29 Ken Fisher.
3rd prize £50 no.92 Taz

To join the 100 Club please contact Alan Skinner at skinners205@btinternet.com

Over £100k to be invested into the pitches at St Mark’s, the home of TWRFC

As some of you will remember when I became Chairman I said we would review our investment priorities and create a route to delivering them. At the time our priorities were:

  • Improving our Clubroom in the Clubhouse
  • Improve our parking at St Mark’s
  • Improve the availability of our pitches.

We quickly reached a conclusion that with St Mark’s as our long term home our most pressing priority should be having pitches to play rugby on! So investment in pitch availability became our priority, closely followed by improved parking and then the Clubhouse.

We continue to progress our thoughts on the Alternative Grass Pitch which would sit alongside pitch 1 and I hope to update you further on that soon. Today I wish to make you aware of a significant investment into pitches 2 and 3. We are optimistic that this investment will give significantly enhanced availability of these pitches and keep St Mark’s open for rugby for a considerably longer period. We are taking our drainage back to basics with:

  • Brand new main carrier drains from the east end of pitches 2 and 3 to the small pond beside Frant road.
  • Brand new primary drainage channels (that feed into the main carrier drains) running length ways down pitches 2 and 3. These are perforated plastic drains that are connected together and run between 3 and 5 meters apart. The channels above them are filled with gravel and root-zone sand.
  • Brand new secondary drainage sand and gravel slits running across the pitches to feed the primary drainage channels.

The work is due to start at the beginning of May and the pitches will be out of action for several months to allow the grounds to recover and re-seed. Our friends at Borderers Cricket have kindly agreed to use the ‘Kent wicket’ this year while the work is completed.

This will mean that during the extended rugby season in May and the start of the cricket season (in May) the remainder of St Marks will be a little congested and we thank you for your understanding as we juggle training/fixtures to fit everyone in. It’s likely that we will have to adjust training times, and potentially move the occasional session to Saturday to accommodate.

Like all projects of this size they involve many hands and the financial support of many. In terms of the grounds strategy and engaging with contractors Roger Clarke has done a tremendous amount of work and diligence. In terms of paying for it there are many to thank: firstly the club has been saving away and sinking monies to prepare for this moment; secondly Tunbridge Wells Borough Council have offered to support; lastly the RFU and Sport England have supported us throught their ‘Winter survival fund’.

We thank you all for your support of our club and sport in Tunbridge Wells.

Come on you Wells

Mike
#oneTWRFC

HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

TWRFC join the country in mourning the loss of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. A tireless member of the Royal Family but also a loving Husband, Father, Grandfather and Great Grandfather.

Best known to many as the founder of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, a scheme that has helped millions grow and develop skills over the years including many of our own members.

Rest in Peace

Former player makes his first start in the level 2 Championship

By the 2018-19 season, Tunbridge Wells were firmly established at Level Five in the competition pyramid and this started to attract players from other local clubs who wanted to test themselves at this high standard of rugby.

One such player was Jake Caddy who had spent his formative years at Beckenham RFC and had already been an England Students 7s player before arriving at St Marks. Jake performed consistently well for us during that season, with the highlight being his receiving the Player of the Tournament award as the Wells defended their Whiting & Hammond Elite Sevens title in April 2019.

Jake has now moved to pastures new and is part of Richmond RFC’s Championship squad (where another former Wells player and coach Dom Palacio is part of the coaching team), and made his first start at that level in a home game against Cornish Pirates earlier this month.

Well done Jake

March 100 Club draw result

The winner of the big March draw winning £1,000 was no. 16 Robin Apps.
As Robin had also won in the February draw he has generously donated part of his prize back to the Club for which we applaud and thank him.

We have been pleased to have several new members join to support the club and we still have space for a few more. Please contact Alan Skinner at skinners205@btinternet.com for more details.