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

TEK Group Hits Major Milestone

2021 sees 1XV sponsor TEK Group hit a major milestone of 50 years in operation. Known to many of our members for their ergonomic office chair brand Sit Smart. Through their TEK Seating and TEK military brands they also offer solutions for commercial, bus and coach, construction, agriculture, material handling, military, rail, minibus and marine markets.

TEK Group remains a local, family run business but has grown to become the UK’s largest independent vehicle seat distributor for the OEM and aftermarket.

 “TEK Group is really proud to hit this significant milestone” said Paul Fleming, CEO TEK Group. “ It’s down to the hard work and loyalty of past and present team members. Being part of the community we work in is very important to all of us at TEK Group and our involvement with TWRFC is just part of our commitment to community engagement.”

“TEK Group have been a 1XV sponsor for over fiveyears” said Simon Hughes, Head of TWRFC Commercial “Paul and the team at TEK have been fantastic advocates of the club and continued to support us through these challenging times. We are delighted to see them hit their 50 year anniversary and we wish them all the best for the next 50.”

For more information on TEK Groups products and services:

t: 01892 515028,

e: sales@tekseating.co.uk

https://www.tekseating.co.uk/

Tim McCabe – a rugby history in words and images

“My Dad said, “you’d better come outside and I’ll throw you a rugby ball in the garden as you’ll be playing rugby at your new school”.

Up until that time I was just a footballer.

I joined The Skinners’ School in September 1981, and played my first training game at their Southfields pitches.

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was supposed to do, but a bit like ‘Forest Gump’ (with a quarter of the pace), I found myself with the ball.

I ran forward knocking over everything and anyone in my way. I placed the ball down and scored a try. Ian Bradbury, my Welsh form teacher and rugby enthusiast said, “you are a Hooker”.

And the following week, Mr Bradbury made me Captain.

I captained the team for the next 5 years. With my rugby prowess infinitely better than my academic record, I left.

At 16 I played my first Adult game for Westerham RFC (now sadly no longer).

Placed in the front row, against Dover. I was sandwiched between two policemen. They looked after me on the pitch and afterwards in the bar.

I then went onto join TWRFC playing colts, for a brief season. I also played U16s for Kent. However a house move to live back at my parents meant that I joined Eastbourne RFC Colts and Seniors where I also played Sussex U18 and U20s.

I started work in London in January 1990, and I then had multiple options to play. I represented various companies at Advertising 7s rugby. I also trained in the off-season at Clapham Common playing rugby netball.

From ’92 I went on to represent and Captain the EAARFC (English Advertising Agencies) and the Media Nomads. The latter a hard, socialising and touring Sunday side. We holidayed (!) in most of Europe and the USA.

I played for the Stray Dogs RFC, mainly against tough Welsh opposition and had a cheeky run out for Basildon RFC to play with my brother in law.

My ‘club’ rugby across this period was spent for 11 seasons flitting between OMT’s (Old Merchant Taylors) RFC and Old Wimbledonians. Due to work commitments I could only make sporadic training sessions in the evening, so I found myself nicely nestled in 2nd XV team Rugby.

In 2001, I moved with my family to Tunbridge Wells. I re-joined TWRFC. I played mostly with the 2nd XV and had one trip to Portsmouth for my first and only 1st XV cap. From 2005 I was eligible for Vets XV (35 years of age). And that year toured with the club to Denia in Spain – the Easter Chicken Tour (don’t ask!).

It was about this time that I got embroiled in the Mini and Youth sections of TWRFC, as my eldest Max, turned 6.

It was aso at this point that I started to get heavily involved with non-playing aspects of the club: coaching; Chairing; reffing; kitchen cooking; comparing; auctioning; BBQ’ing; tournaments, club house development and Kiwi camps.

I coached both my boy’s age groups, finally getting to play rugby with them last Boxing Day (2019). And we would have had a fantastic re-union with both age groups who are now all eligible to play senior rugby – I guess that will have to be next season now.

I retired from regular Saturday matches in 2012. The body couldn’t take the weekly punishment and the knees weren’t enjoying scrum time. However what I found was I couldn’t keep away from the sport or the club. I continued to have the odd run-out every year from then onwards.

I still play with a club side from Scotland- Waid FP Rugby Club’s Buccaneers. I have represented them on Tour, also playing alongside some of them for the Scottish Members of Parliament RFC – playing against ‘The House of Commons and Lords RFC’. Again drafting in some TWRFC club members and my Max.

My weekends in a normal season; consist of me on a Saturday morning reffing at Skinners’ (this I will continue now my boys have left the school), then going to the club to watch the 1st XV. On a Sundays I currently drop off Martha who helps run the Café (since she was 8) and I then either reff or help coach the U11’s.

The best thing about rugby is meeting your friends and joining them for a beer. Hopefully we can do that soon, and maybe, if you are very lucky, I can talk you through the try that I scored at ‘The Rec’ playing with my best TWRFC club mate Fran Colangelo!

Floreat Sodalitas – let fellowship flourish!”

I am looking for more contributions please – contact me at gwithers10@btinternet.com

Mad Bob’s Memorial match, Mr Chairman’s “retirement” game and Father Ed’s 40th Birthday Celebration!
The Kiwi Camp – started by enigmatic Martin Stanley – ex Auckland player and amazing man.
EAARFC President Tim Mott and Jean Pierre Ardour (JPA) – bookends R to L.
Dan and Matty Ingman v Max & Tim McCabe on Boxing Day. The children are the future
Fran and Sedgie joining me in Bath (yes, that try…!) playing at the Rec. It’s not pink it’s cerise….!
My last 2nd XV match v TJs in 2019. I think we drew away! I’d had a couple of lagers on the train home when Mav asked me if I’d step up!!
The SPA’nish Ball – held at The Spa (remember going out drinking and dancing!!); Dave West and Jim Scully, two fine coaches and gentlemen.
Got to play with both my boys, Max and Laurie. Stuff of dreams.
Social space – clubhouse clear up – many hands make light work!
Front row (Re)union – Dave Allan (OMTs)and Mick (TWRFC)
A run out with Skinners’ Boxing Day 2019. Coached by Jerv the swerve! Followed by £120 worth of physio.
Sedgie joining me for a run out with OMT’s Vets v Reading Rhinos.
Mav, Stefan (President Becs Old Boys and former EAARFC player) on Boxing Day. Attending 2 minutes applause for JPA’s funeral
Captain Zak and Max’s first TWRFC match
On tour in Pau with Waid Buccaneers
The EAARFC Barbarians. A mixture of mates from the advertising industry, Media Nomads and Bideford in Devon. Playing North Paris – CSM Gennevilliers Rugby
Waid Buccaneers on tour CA Pontacq
Wags and Fran
“Pop-up” shop at Tunbridge Wells Clock Tower May 2016
At HQ
The Mif$hit$
Hello Sailor
They are all superheroes to me
Christmas jumpers
Good grief……
Comperes for the SPAnish Ball…..
Bruno & Olivier from Pontacq….Wonderful hosts
The Kiwis sneak behind the bar…..
Milo getting “Douched”….captions please!?
Phil “Pot of Gold” Nelson
Half time C
chicken removal
Bobby G’s White & Blue Army…..then secret party back at his with no invite for Fat Pants AGAIN!
Serious business in teh days when we could hug and drink……
“Gok on a stick”, top tourist. “Get your Gok out for the lads” and “We want Gok” just two of the chants that can be heard reverberating around the ground.
Reffing Laurie at Skinners
Cooking up a large snarler fest with Drew
Pre-season (remember that?)
Recounting my favourite Debby McGee joke….
Stack-a-Drew
“Are you COVID ready?”
Tour trophy- “liberated” not stolen of course.
Paul Enville – marathon supremo and First Aid Sunday life-saver
Martha McCabe….”Future Ms Chairwoman”
Club Dinner at the High Rocks
Was a good three minutes….then Sinckler left the field!
Mighty TWRFC Veterans at Ashford…..(Editor: when someone called Tim ran over the dead ball line when he should have been scoring a try #justsaying)
A valiant TWRFC 6 join Parliament Hall RFC to play against The House of Lords and Commons RFC at Richmond before the Calcutta Cup. Or ‘hands up if you look like wee Jimmy Krankie with high crutch shorts’

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

Clean Sweep Marks Wells Ladies Return to Action

Sunday 17th saw the first competitive run out for TWRFC Ladies U18 squad since Covid-19 ended the 2019/20 season back in April.

The squad travelled to Medway RFC to play the RFU Covid approved format Ready 4 Rugby based on Touch Rugby that offers fast moving, competitive non-contact games.

“We continued to train, in line with RFU and Kent RFU guidelines, at the club but all the players were really looking forward to some competitive rugby” said Paul Miles Head Coach. “Of course we’d all like to be playing full contact games but the RFU have worked hard to define guidelines that mean players can get out on the pitch but also help keep us all Covid safe”

The afternoon took the format of a round-robin of ten aside with time built in at half time and between games to sanitise the ball. The Wells ended the day with a clean sweep winning all four of their games.

“It was a great result for the squad” continued Paul “It took a little while to blow the cobwebs away with some early handling errors but their confidence grew through the afternoon and they started building some excellent passages of play. There’s still room for improvement and we will work on that over the coming weeks. But, the great thing was to see the whole squad out there enjoying competitive rugby again”

In other news TWRFC Ladies continue to develop with training sessions now available for over 18’s “Developing a Senior Squad is a key part of the development strategy for the Ladies Section” said Simon Parsons, Director if Ladies Rugby “We already have a number of players training and run regular try out sessions at St Marks on Sundays”

End of game handshakes have been replaced with a new ritual

U6s Smash The 100 Club

Tunbridge Wells RFC Youth Section has, for the second year running, achieved the impressive milestone of exceeding 100 registered members in the Under-6 age group.  Numbers this season have surpassed 120+ with more members requesting to join each week.  This is a record number for the club in any age group, highlighting the dedication, and safe environment the coaches provide for our members.

Tom Callaway, the Under 6s Head Coach, said “this is a fantastic compliment to the hard work put in each week by our dedicated volunteer coaches, especially in our age group.  Putting it simply, we could not manage this number without their continued support and I personally am truly grateful to be part of such of great team”.

“We are a community based rugby club that relies on support of dedicated volunteers.  With their support, especially with the additional Covid guidelines this year, we are able to continue in providing a safe and enjoyable environment which allows the children to develop their rugby skills.  I could not be more thankful and proud of everyone involved”.

Among the comments received from parents, one said “the coaches have all been brilliant, and my son absolutely loves the sessions the club provide for him”.

Another commented “I have been very impressed by the professional approach and organisation put in to making training such a fun atmosphere for everyone.  Considering the strange times we are in, it’s great to still be able to come every Sunday.  A big thank you to all the coaches for their hardwork”.

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

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

Chairman’s update

Dear Members and Friends of TWRFC,

I hope you are well, healthy and safe. We have all had a fairly challenging past few months which has tested all of us in many new ways. It was certainly nice to see the minis and youth age groups back at St Mark’s as the restrictions eased. It is equally good to see the senior and Ladies sections back training this month too. I think we have all enjoyed a small step back to normality.

We are very busy and excited about the return to rugby at the beginning of September. We have been busy preparing the club to be compliant with both the Government and RFU guidelines to ensure we have a safe return. If you have been to a shop or restaurant recently you will all be familiar with the look and feel at the club: Lots of hand sanitisers, lots of one way signs etc. But we are ready and can’t wait to get back.

Over the summer it has been great to see St Mark’s being used by our community. In addition to most of our Mini and Youth age  groups training we have welcomed: Rugby Tots; The Mead School, ??? Puppy training, First Class Football a running club and of course our friends at Borderers Cricket club to St Marks. Of course this is in addition to the endless runners, dog walkers, fitness enthusiasts and walkers. In fact this week we have the ground let out to the Kiwi Experience sports camp with lots of kids having a great time. So in short it has been thriving and vibrant as well as of huge value to our Community.

We have also been busy investing. Early on in the summer we had some volunteers strimming and chopping to keep our perimeter tidy. We have seen some fantastic art work go up on the ground floor to make the Club a little brighter (kindly paid for by Countryside Homes). We have also expanded the decking in front of the clubhouse to make a nice place to eat or drink your delights from the Café. We have also seen investment into the pitches, with lots of slitting, sanding, seeding and hole filling. Trying to ensure we have the pitches as prepared as we can for the new season.

We have also progressed our investment and expansion plans. More news will follow on this soon but we are making progress.

As for the club more operationally. We have budgeted for this year, we have sensitised the budget for this year and we have scenario planned for this year. We are financially strong enough to trade through all such scenarios but will be launching our annual membership renewal soon to help us.

As I ended last night’s Board meeting I said:

  • We have a mini/youth section that is growing in numbers (600+) and is offering an ever improving experience
  • We have an academy that ended last year with strength and depth as well as qualifying for a Kent cup final.
  • We have a ladies section that is going from strength to strength with over a 100 members as well as growing senior members
  • We have a senior section that had a really strong finish last season, has a great team spirit. They have carried good numbers into pre-season training with some new faces. The Vets and social members are very welcome but I suspect will appear a little later!
  • We are financially safe and operationally compliant

We are in good shape and I thanked the Board and all our volunteers for putting the club in this position.

We do however have lots to work on still:

  • We strive to diversify our revenues further and particularly over the summer
  • We want to continue the progress on delivering an all-weather pitch as well as better grass pitches.
  • We want to deepen our value to the Community and ensure more people enjoy the beauty of St Marks
  • We want to broaden our Commercial partners to allow even more investment into the facilities we all enjoy
  • We want to attract more social members to play rugby, socialise and enjoy our club

If you can help us achieve any of the above then please do let me or any member of the Board know.

I look forward to welcoming you back up the club soon and hopefully to enjoy some competitive rugby (when we are allowed!)

COYW

Mike
#oneTWRFC