RUGBY FOR ALL IN MACCLESFIELD
The core team game of rugby football has developed in the community, more so, than any other team game, during the past 10 years. Long gone are the days when it was the preserve of grammar school educated boys. The old boys clubs started back in the mid-nineteenth century, but it was another hundred years before community rugby took hold, with the game expanding across the wider social spectrum. The real sea-change, in the development of community rugby, occurred in 1969, when two Huddersfield rugby dads pioneered the formation of mini-rugby. Today its appeal is evident at Macclesfield Rugby Club, with hundreds of boys, girls, mums dads and even granddads enjoying the game.
It’s a huge sporting and social family, from boys and girls under the age of six to walking rugby, with no upper age limit. The social benefits are many-fold: keeping fit and healthy, providing a leisure recreation and creating a social facility for communal use.
How does it help our young folk? The Rugby Club provides a careful and structured pathway for young people to have fun, get healthy exercise and learn life skills.
It hasn’t happened overnight, our learning has come from the early days in 1971, with now 380 members from 5 to 18 years of age. To make it happen 80 volunteers give their time week in week out, to organise, provide first aid, or just to be on hand to help out.
It’s a Kids First coaching philosophy, coaching the whole player. Core skills are developed in games; with the Rugby Union Core Values being part of all rugby at MRUFC (Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship). The young players get to take part in a sport they love, enjoying physical activity with their friends followed by the social interaction (mainly nuggets and chips!) in the Clubhouse afterwards.
The route creates a Player Pathway from U6 to senior rugby; from U13 to U18 (Junior Rugby) players start to link with the senior teams; match day shadowing where three players will “shadow” the 1st XV coaches and help warm up with the first team. Colts (U17/U18) will often train with the senior sides and start to play senior rugby from 17 upwards, 18 for front row positions. This season four colts stepped up to play 1st XV rugby, and several others playing 2nd, 3rd and 4th XV senior rugby.
This careful pathway, that builds strength and fitness along with respect, discipline and sportsmanship, works on all kinds of levels: for health, general wellbeing and as preparation for life-skills; as well as creating the best opportunity for young players to begin to achieve their sporting ambitions. On the latter point it has been vividly evident this season, with at times at least three quarters of the 1st team being made up of ex Macclesfield mini and junior players.
It’s from these strong foundations that our community sport grows, both in the highly competitive 1st and 2nd team squads, to the non-less competitive but more social 3rd and 4th team squads. And there’s always room for more players/teams returning to play our great game; forty years ago the Club turned out 6 or 7 teams every Saturday. The camaraderie built amongst players, over many years of playing together, and on tours creates a bond that is hard to break and you will see it in abundance at the Club, in many different ways. The latest, this season, has been the formation of ‘Walking Rugby’. Inspiring many to start chucking the egg-shaped ball around again, as well as new people coming into the game. They can’t wait to get at it again!
The other rugby players, just as eager to get back to Priory Park are the ladies of the Ladies Development squad, champing on their gum-shields. Their story has started, but as yet is in its infancy and deserves a column in its own right – to follow!
Today Chairman, Stephen Branch announced the outstanding success of the Club’s Emergency Appeal. In three weeks over 30,000 was raised from members to ensure that the Club could keep its head above water during the Covid 19 lockdown. His full report appears on the Club’s website.
Like plenty of things happening at present there was an unreal feeling driving past Priory Park on Saturday afternoon and seeing the gates locked up, with no rugby taking place.
The Macclesfield players had had such high hopes of promotion, which didn’t work out after the RFU’s computations. When Clubman spoke to Head Coach Andy Appleyard, whilst he was disappointed, he stated that there were so many positives coming out of the campaign: “New players have emerged, senior players have put their hands up and with our average age being only 23 there is a lot to be optimistic about for next year”.
And he’s delighted that 95% of the squad has already re-signed which demonstrates how much they love playing for MRUFC.
The social tour of Majorca is, of course, now officially abandoned. Jason Walker who has been the Tour Organiser these last seven years says: “We had 54 players and supporters all paid up to take off on April 23rd and looking forward to a great weekend”. Jason already had the tour polo shirts embroidered with the 2020 date, these could become a collector’s item now for the tour that never was.
The fourth team has such a warm spirit within their ranks that they are having weekly quiz nights on Fridays via the digital wonders of Zoom. It was started by Rufus Dixon and continued by Louis Smith and next Jeremy Bostock, the format is that the winner each week becomes the Question Master for the next week. Members really were finding they did not really enjoy drinking beer at home alone, but when connected by Zoom it felt much more communal and they happily enjoyed a beer competing in the Virtual Quiz.
This week in honour of the cancelled tour, choir leader John Teal will lead the team singing all the tour songs before the questions. It promises to be a good night. And let’s face it, nobody has anywhere else to go.