December 100 Club Draw

The results of the December draw were as follows:-


1st. prize £250 no. 14 Keith Bassi.
2nd. prize £100 no. 72 Michelle Greenall.
3rd. prize. £50 no. 92 Taz Ahmed.

Club memoirs – Nigel Follows

(PHOTO: the Three Musketeers- Tim McCabe, Paul Miles and Nigel)

I hope you enjoy reading the next in the series of club member profiles. This comes from a stalwart of the modern game…..”Big Nige” Follows.

“The secondary school I went to in South London during 1979-82 was predominantly a football/cricket/basketball school. However, in my final year there 3 teachers turned up who had an interest in rugby so, consequently, my first experience of the game was in 1982 playing in the front row and also kicking conversions ……the theory then being that to kick a heavy-ish old style Gilbert ball that you needed a big lump to kick it…..

My next secondary school (Croydon at the time had a weird system of secondary schooling) did not play rugby, however the Head of PE had played for London Welsh and was keen to get me playing for a local club. He recommended Shirley Wanderers (now Croydon RFC), where I started in the back row before finishing in the front row, but playing in all sorts of positions when returning from university including fullback and centre….!

I effectively played there in Colts and senior teams until 2000, apart from a brief 3 season interlude at Rosslyn Park, where I made the transition from back row to front row with the help of a wonderful coach called Phil Keith-Roach. (Note from the Editor – many of you will know that Mr Keith-Roach went on to be the scrum coach to England’s 2003 World Cup winning team: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Keith-Roach)

I did, actually play my first 1st XV team game at Shirley Wanderers at 17 in the front row when I was playing in the back row but due to injury moved to front row during the game (it wasn’t a pleasant experience!) My time at Rosslyn Park ended with me rupturing my ACL in my right knee and a change in job location.

By the time my oldest son was 6 in 2003 (turning 7 in November of that year), we had lived in East Sussex for 7 years so returning to Shirley Wanderers/Croydon RFC was not an option and we were equidistant really between East Grinstead, TJs and Tunbridge Wells. Someone gave me Peter Vernon’s phone number, and he suggested I turn up to minis training the next Sunday and to look for the U7s.

I duly turned up and was told to look for a guy with and an Italian sounding name, Fran “something or other” and he would be wandering round with a clipboard. Lo and behold I found  Mr Colangelo and not only was he coaching the U7 minis (along with Neil Bagwell and Clinton Douch ),but he was also captain of the 4th team and so at 35 I was playing the next Saturday against Gravesend….I think alongside Fran.

From playing just a bit of social rugby, I ended up playing mostly with the 2s alongside Tim McCabe, Alan Metcalfe, Simon Parsons, Paul Ashworth, Andy Maynard, Tom Calloway, Pete Binham, Tiggy, Sedgy, Goggles and Graham Withers (I find it easier to remember the forwards). I did play 1s in a cup game at Sidcup where, following being elbowed in the eye (by Pete Binham?!?), I tore my knee cartilage quite badly.

Following surgery to sort out the cartilage and playing more 2’s rugby, I started training again and very surprisingly for me was selected to play against Hove (away, which might be the reason why!) for the first team at about 42 years old (Milo and Sedge were older – phew!) and then played for the ones for the next 2 – 3 seasons, unfortunately in sides that got relegated. That first year back playing first team rugby in London 1 South with Milo, Harry, Sedgy, Tiggy (sorry forwards again ! ) and coached by Jim and Mav, was something I enjoyed massively despite relegation. It was also great playing with some of the young guys from Skinners making their first team debuts, like Cam Corcoran, Ben Madgwick, Rory Reames and others.

Following an Achilles injury and a season’s break, I came back to playing again for the 2s and 3s and have been very fortunate to play with my two oldest sons, Tom and Cameron. I have yet to play with Elliot, my youngest son largely due to Covid, but I hope to be able to do this which will mean at least one more season.

My introduction to the club as mentioned previously was via the minis/juniors, and I am proud that all 3 boys have been through the club and have played senior rugby and that I have helped with their age groups, in particular Tom’s. It is great that the club encourages the junior sides to tour and I have been on some great tours with junior sides – Biarritz, Provence, Jersey and Champagne in particular spring to mind. The guys who run and do most of the coaching of the minis and junior sides do an amazing job – Clinton Douch, Fran Colangelo, Neil Bagwell, Rob Booth, Tim Champion, Simon Ingman, Rob Game, Malcolm Clarke, Dave Brockman to name but a few.

So after Elliot, my youngest son had finished playing junior rugby at the club I thought I would have Sundays off during the season, however my daughter piped up that she would like to have a go. So off we trek back to the club again on a Sunday for Megan to play. Milo, Ollie Allman and Steve Pengelly coach the side and have done an amazing job, and the side has been pretty successful. Megan absolutely loves playing in the team and just has so much fun, either playing or training. A mention should go to Simon Parsons who is Director of Rugby for the Ladies.”

First XV action with Josh Pitman and Alex “Pingu” Threlfell……
A typical bullocking run against Cranbrook Vets…..

So you know the format by now – please don’t be shy. I am looking for some more club recollections so please send your personal memoirs (with some of your favourite photos) to me at gwithers10@btinternet.com. If you want more details or background then I am happy to chat you through the process.

GW

Chairman’s New Year Message

As 2020 has drawn to a close and we start the new year I thought it timely to provide a little update on TWRFC.

It has been a challenging year for the club with virtually no senior rugby to talk of and an interrupted and rather constrained Colts/Youth/Ladies/Mini’s rugby. Despite the adversity I’m pleased to share that TWRFC is thriving.

One of our key purposes at TWRFC is to be a centre of sporting excellence in Tunbridge Wells for all players at whatever level they are able to compete, our ability to do this has been heavily constrained throughout 2020 by both the Government and RFU guidelines. During this year our focus has inevitably shifted to maintaining a Covid-safe environment for our members, retaining our strong club-community and safeguarding the financial future of the club through these difficult times.

In-spite of the challenging environment, we have kept the Youth/Ladies/Mini’s active at times when they have really needed it. I would like to recognise and thank all the coaches and volunteers who have worked so hard to deliver the maximum programme of rugby permitted within the constraints. Whilst I’m sure all of us in the rugby community had appetite for more, it was still great to be able to offer the rugby we did, and the positive feedback and support we received across the club was much appreciated. I’d also like to thank Martin for keeping us on the straight and narrow as regards the ever-changing and indecipherable Covid requirements. To call out a few highlights from the youth section:

  • We have record numbers of family/youth members (over 650 youth players)
  • Out U6’s hit a new record for membership, breaking through the 125 mark for an age group
  • The Ladies numbers have risen yet again with all teams playing great rugby and enjoying the game.  It’s particularly pleasing to see the advent of the Under 11s section which looks set to improve the pipeline of players into the older Ladies age-groups.
  • The Academy are back to full strength and challenging at the right levels. Even making a final… that was never played!
  • We also got the Kiwi camp away which gave lots of kids a fantastic outlet in the summer.

Prior to the pandemic, the first XV played some fantastic exciting attacking rugby resulting in a healthy (above Sevenoaks) finish to the 2019/20 season. They have established themselves fully in L&SE premier and I know they are now keen to push on and challenge themselves for promotion. Looking forward, Simon Whatling has been joined by Dave Marshall as our new DoR and Ben Kayser as our new forward’s coach. We have the best coaching team in the area and these guys should be a magnet to new members. Not sure Ben will thank me for the photo I used!  We don’t really know what the rest of the season holds, hopefully the first XV will take part in a friendly local tournament with teams like Sevenoaks, Westcombe Park, Dorking etc. Which would be an excellent opportunity to get behind your club and enjoy a celebratory atmosphere.  I am optimistic that the rest of our senior rugby and academy will ‘hopefully’ get going soon and get some rugby under their (ever growing) belts.

Ben Kayser – our new Forwards Coach

Importantly we have also kept a very keen eye on our finances. Our income has been severely impacted by the pandemic: Many of our sponsors are themselves under pressure, and I’d very much like to thank those who continue to support the club in these difficult times, Inevitably a few were unable to continue to support the club to the extent they had done previously. We also had to cancel all our usual fun (and fundraising) events; and have seen the bar sales reduced to nil. Typically, sponsorship, bar and events would account for roughly 2/3rds of our revenue. We have sought to replace as much of the lost revenue as we could, though new sources (puppy clubs, fitness clubs, school rentals etc. even a football academy), maximising the revenue opportunities afforded by the café (Thanks to Martha and crew). We were also able to secure a couple of grants and take advantage of VAT reduction and deferment schemes.  We have managed to significantly reduce our costs. Expenditure has been watched by everybody like a hawk to ensure we are as lean as possible.

Typically, membership subscriptions account for the remaining ~third of our revenue. This season we encouraged membership to be paid early and in full where possible, and helped by the switch to Spond, 65% of membership subscriptions were paid prior to the start of the season. There are still a small number of members who could help us here…. We have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity in donating funds from cancelled tours, cancelled youth balls and supporting the club in many other ways. Thank you everyone, for working hard to achieve the above. I am delighted to say despite the unusual circumstances we are in good financial health and have clear visibility of cash to see us through to next season. Special thanks as always to Don Bailey for taking on the extra work requires to afford us month-to-month forecasting.

Off the pitch, we have secured new volunteers who are doing ever broader roles for the club. Our press and marketing group in particular has grown fantastically. Thank you for some amazing articles, great coverage, good sponsor interaction and of course those fun videos. Our members also engaged in helping the locally community, and collectively raised £6,000 for Nourish and Hospice in the Weald, through the 6-nations challenge; and the U13s race between kids/parents to Rome.

Looking towards St. Mark – during 2020 we invested in the clubhouse and grounds: new PA system outside, new sound system inside, new Café, new decking and gazebo (see photo). We have kept up progress of our 3G planning application (thanks to Richard Bains). The club is progressing our development plans and with our planning consultation back (and positive) we have created a new Development committee under the leadership of Steve Daly to progress our ambitions here. If you have time to help, then do let Steve know (steve@ascenderconsulting.co.uk).

Moving into 2021, all sections will continue to deliver as much rugby as the Government and RFU allow us to. We know how important this is and we can’t wait to get some fixtures delivered too. As soon as circumstances permit; we also hope to be able to gather our membership and enable some very much needed and valued social interaction. Can’t wait to get that club room open when it is safe to do so, and enjoy a pint with friends. 

And with that thought of a pint with friends I wish you all a Happy New Year. Let it bring health, happiness and lots of rugby!

COYW

Mike

“VPs – A History” – Phil Sprackling Snr

PHOTO: Back Line: Juan – Big Phil – David Kneeling: Bill – Little Phil

“It was the autumn of 1952 that I had my first game of rugby at centre for Tunbridge Wells (it was Old Skinners then) I remember two things of that game: 1) The fly half Guy Batchelor, who became a good friend later, did not past the ball to me once and 2)I had my first beer afterwards in the Imperial in Southborough.

I really started regularly in 1957 – after National Service, I was in  the “A XV” under Pete Jefferies – we were still playing at Southborough – Southfields, so it meant changing at the school walking a mile to the ground and back – wash in the school basins then head off for a beer – Our HQ then was The Cross Keys. Over the next few years we changed pubs numerous times The Camden, The Culverden, (both now gone) The George and finally the Sussex Oaks run by Dennis Lane – father of Joe, who played for our 1st XV.  Then, thank goodness, we built the first clubhouse at St Marks – in the first year we grossed £1,000 but the profit was nil – the then Chairman and bar steward left immediately…….

By this time, I was captain of the “Glorious A” and continued to be so for the next umpteen years. Occasionally, I played in the 1st XV where on one memorable occasion I broke my ankle up at Osterley – this started a love/hate relationship with the Kent and Sussex Hospital – they despised all people in dirty striped shirts who arrived there on a Saturday evening! Nose broken 3 times, dislocated arm and more stitches in my head and body than I care to remember.

In 1965 we moved to St Austell in Cornwall, where I played in the back row for the 1st team and we went a whole season without a loss. This brought me my only representative honours in the game I love. I was selected several times for ‘Cornish  Clubs’ XV, and once had the privilege to play alongside Richard Sharp (ex England fly-half) who had just moved back to St Austell.

There was one other game when I played with  two current internationals for Tunbridge Wells 2nd XV.  Colin Smart came up from Newport for the weekend and bought a friend Jeff Squire (who confided in me that he had never played “course rugby”). As the first XV did not want to “upset their squad” I commandeered them for the afternoon. We travelled down to Plumpton and the first site of the ground was the metal posts leaning askew at a 15 degree angle! We changed in a small wooden shed with nails to hang your clothes on and cold water afterwards to wash. Jeff loved it and scored 4 tries  and admitted “I’ve never run so far without being tackled”.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of my rugby life, was one day on a cold wet pitch at Hadlow College. I played with my four sons (all who  played for TWRFC 1st XV) against an Old Juddians side and we won 6 – 3.

I continued playing until 1987 – including captaining the only time TWRFC fielded a 6th team. The only instructions I gave the boys that day was, we will play it the ‘old way’ i.e a stop at the Weald pub before the game for a quick pint and no going home early to the wife after it was over – we won  and all enjoyed it. The last game I played was away to Old Gravesendians when I snapped the other upper arm tendon!

That started me on refereeing – firstly at TW and then for the Kent Society. Great fun and thanks to Clive Evans and my instant availability, I got one or two good games well above my status. My Presidential responsibilities for 11 years then prevented any further involvement on the pitch. Now, every Saturday I’m at the pitch-side and thanks to Wicko and friends I get ferried to away games. Funnily enough when we come back from away games we stop off at the Imperial in Southborough – nothing changes. COYB.”  

“VPs – A History” – Kathy Skinner

“Rugby has been a big part of my life, not least because I grew up there (my family moved to Rugby from Lancashire in 1967).  From the age of about 16 to 18, Saturday nights were spent at the weekly disco at the Rugby Lions clubhouse.  Boz Scaggs’ Lido Shuffle always takes me back to those times. 

My father was also a first class rugby player, playing in the second row for Birkenhead Park and Cheshire in the 1950s, with his older brother Bill, playing at No 8.  Family lore is that Bill, who had a run out with the Barbarians, would have played for England except he was held back for not having a double-barrelled surname. He was a lovely, quietly spoken man, who frequently had to apologise for his younger brother’s behaviour on the park and was known to have taken a punch intended for Dad, in a case of mistaken identity.

I loved listening to Dad’s tales of his playing days which meant a lot of travelling, including to play Leicester on Boxing Day and overnight ferries back from Dublin after games at Lansdowne Road, and having to go straight into work when they arrived back in Liverpool.  Training was also different then, especially when Dad was working in London but travelling back to the Wirral.  It was once round the pitch with his boots on and then steak and chips for tea.  He ended his rugby career playing at Warlingham after a move down to Oxted.  In his later years he enjoyed his visits to TWRFC where he was always made very welcome.

My connection with TWRFC began in the early 90s when I moved to Tunbridge Wells. At that time Alan was coaching Jonathan’s age group as well as playing himself so I spent a lot of time on the touchline, and still do.  I have been an active volunteer, including five years as Hon Treasurer, and more recently organising the pre-match lunches as well as supporting Alan in his Presidential and bar manager duties. 

The club means a huge amount to me.  It has been incredibly welcoming and I have made lifelong friends.  I enjoy supporting the boys on a Saturday, the banter on the touchline, and the conviviality of the bar afterwards.  I love the family atmosphere and it has been a delight to watch as each new generation develops its own connection with the club.  It has involved a lot of hard work of times, but it has been great fun, and very rewarding.”

“VPs – A History” – David Moxon

“No minis then so my first game of rugby at 11 years was for Beckenham GS Bantams. After school, I played 16 seasons for Beccehamians, playing with a lot of very talented players before leagues were introduced. Our best result was in a game that saw us score 100 points against Juddians.

Played two years when we lived in Tonbridge for the town side, which was again with a great bunch of guys.

Our new abode was a shambles and I was “persuaded” to retire and restore the place. However, from up the ladder were spotted a set of rugby posts….! Across the fields and a few pints later I was signed up and played up until Christmas for Johnny Johnson’s side.

Sadly, rugby retirement coins died with the burning down of the old clubhouse, no loss to the building but certainly for the memorabilia. Having been involved in building the OB’s clubhouse I was soon involved again in the new build. With such a great building facility we needed to match it with better playing areas and as Chairman of the Borderers (by now) we purchased the field for our present 4th XV pitch. This was followed by purchasing ground over the hedge in Sussex, and change of planning use and a complete rejig of the playing area gave us 4 pitches and 2 excellent cricket squares.

A few years later we substantially improved the changing room requiring a new lease and the second maximum lottery grant. Heading up these projects was extremely rewarding and embraced so much graft and skill that was available from club members.

On the playing side I dabbled in coaching but soon realised that my lack of ‘know how’ would hold me back so Preliminary, Intermediate and Senior RFU courses followed. The latter taking half my annual leave at Bisham!

At this stage, Mini Rugby had been introduced at only 3 Clubs in Kent (including OBs) so I suggested to 2 club stalwarts Ron Birkby and Fred Delves that we had a go in Tunbridge Wells. An advertisement was placed in the Courier and in the first week almost 100 youngsters turned up. Look at it now! Fantastic. On to the Juniors and some great talent was developing such as messrs Conboy, Nelson, Huntly, Bishop and Purland obtaining trials at England under 16 Level whilst playing together at TWRFC.

Although my first love is rugby we had a close relationship with the cricket section and until recently TW Harriers and Southborough Wheelers. This was crucial in obtaining funding and maximising the use of our splendid facilities.

I still enjoy our sport and of course reminiscing at our quarterly curry club meets.

Thanks guys for so much fun and great comradeship.”

“VPs – A History” – Simon Jones

“I have been associated with TWRFC for 50 years.

At the age of 12 I would run the touch for the 1st XV and my first game for the club was in the 4th XV at the age of 15 under the captaincy of Graham Spittles. In those days the first game of the season was Burgess Hill – an away fixture we always looked forward to, more for the return journey home and the drunken mile.

Progressing up through the teams, I captained the 1st XV 1984/5 season, losing only 4 games. I finished my playing career by captaining the Vets for 2 seasons, reaching the Vets Cup Final before, unfortunately, losing to Purley.

I went on some fantastic tours with the club: Northampton, Germany (3 times), Holland, France, and Jersey to name just a few, but these tours created lasting friendships.

I was social secretary for 10 years and have some great memories of club suppers, dinner dances and Gentlemen Smoking Evenings which were all a great success and a lot of fun. I still enjoy coming up to the club on Saturdays watching the league matches or travelling away on occasions to support the club and of course having a few beers with old and new.”

(PHOTO: Simon with Alan Skinner on tour in Orleans)

“VPs – A History” – John Evans

In conversation with John Evans……

Can you let me have some background on your rugby life and your connection to the club please John?

VP since 2012-13

Clubs I have played for in chronological order (Not always in the 1st XV) –

Porth County Boys

Ton-Pentre Wanderers (Founder member. But we only ever had one fixture!)

City and Guilds College (on Wednesdays)

Imperial College (on Saturdays)

Treorci (on college vacations)

Tylerstown (when they once turned up one short to play Treorci.)

Chemsford (Still an Honorary Member)

St Albans (on loan from Chelmsford)

US Portsmouth (on Saturdays)

HMS Collingwood (on Wesnesdays)

HMS Mull of Galloway (on Wednesdays)

Felixstowe (on Saturdays)

Colchester (on Saturdays)

Thames Valley / Maidenhead (Now an Honorary VP)

I can only remember being carried off once, and I cannot recall being sent off (but I had finished playing before the Yellow Card came in.)

Other involvements –

As Referee Advisor/Assessor –

Berkshire

Southern Group

South West Division

Kent (now retired)

Berkshire (Chairman), Southern Group & South West Division Grading Committees

Also

Hon Treasurer (Subscriptions) Maidenhead RFC

Hon Treasurer Berkshire Referee Society

VP Tunbridge Wells

Can you let me have your personal favourite rugby photo of you?

I cannot find an interesting photograph, but I have attached a caricature of myself presented to me by the Berkshire Referees Society when I left Marlow in 2011. I hope it might do (At last it is different.) I do not know the artist nor why he has drawn me as being left-handed, which I am not, nor why he has left off my right little finger.

The caption which I have left off, reads “Berkshire Society of Rugby Union Referees 1970 -2011”.

All the above has been achieved in 80 seasons!

And your most embarrassing moment?

When playing for Chelmsford. We had an away game against Hendon. Four of us were in a car and well on our way when the driver asked. “Does anyone know where the ground is ?” Silence...all round

No mobile phones in those days. Best suggestion was to go to Hendon Public Library, and hope they had records of Local Clubs and Societies, which they did. But the Rugby Club card was blank!. So we drove back to Chelmsford in shame……..

VPs – A Club History

After the past nine months we have had, and with just 12 days to Christmas, I feel we all deserve a festive treat.

After the hugely positive response I received to the profiles in the autumn of this season’s new TWRFC Vice Presidents, I have started a process of gathering together such “profiles” from across the club.

Through 2021, I intend (with your help) to try and compile a historical record of the club through the memories, reflections and experiences of many of the individuals who have helped us to get where we are today. For example, from taking soundings, many of the next generation of minis parents wouldn’t know who I am….let alone some of the people who’s efforts over the years are giving their children the chance to play at St Marks.

If you want to learn about the pubs that were once at the heart of the club or how the Minis section came into existence then you are in for a treat today.

To do this, I need ALL your help as I will be looking for volunteers of all ages to send me their reminiscences in the New Year and to get you started I am publishing 5 such profiles of senior club members (in alphabetical order):-

John Evans (our oldest living VP and with me in the photo….pre-beard in my case!)

Simon Jones

David Moxon

Kathy Skinner

(Big) Phil Sprackling

If you want to help with this or learn more about the “project” then do let me know at gwithers10@btinternet.com. I will not be starting the next stage until after Christmas but it would be good to have a few people lined up in readiness?

Merry Christmas

#oneTWRFC

Graham

x

November 100 Club Draw results….

The winners of the November draw are:-

No 65 Rob Greig – £250

No 104 Sue Wickenden – £100

No 72 Michelle Greenall – £50

Despite Sue having what might seem an anachronistic number (104 in a 100 club!!!), we have lost a few members since March so are looking for some new players. It’s a great opportunity to both help the club and (perhaps) make a few bob for yourself.

Please contact Alan Skinner at skinners205@btinternet.com for more details.