Last weekend Macclesfield Rugby Club held a 2 day festival of Rugby, involving all ages from U6’s to over 60’s! On Saturday all the senior teams took part, starting with the newest of all the Adult squads, the Walking Rugby squad. Walking rugby is open to anyone over 18, male or female and has proved to be a huge success on Thursday nights at Priory Park. With all demographics taking part: men, women, ex-professional players and people who had never previously passed the egg-shaped ball.
It all kicked off with some of Macclesfield Rugby Club’s large Walking Rugby squad playing in the curtain-raiser of the Club’s Pitch-up-for-Rugby festival on Saturday morning. In little over a year, the Walking Rugby squad has grown from just an idea to more than 30 regular players! Although at the more senior end of the player age range, this initiative has shown how rugby can unite, challenge and enthuse all demographics.
Walking Rugby stalwart, Tristan Wood, reports: “At 11am on Saturday, the walking rugby team opened the festival with the first 2 games being played on the main pitch. There was blistering ‘walking-pace’ on display from the younger guys and some confident old-school skills shown by the larger, and older players. A very entertaining start to the weekend’s play, proving that Rugby is still available to literally everyone! Rugby is the most inclusive family you will ever join and this proves it’s never too late!”
After refuelling, the Walking Rugby Squad was able to feast their eyes on a somewhat swifter version of their own game. It was apparent that all the players in the Club were up for some competitive rugby, even if it was an internal competition; games were being played all over the many pitches of Priory Park. The 1st/2nd team large squad of players played some very fast-action touch rugby, entertaining a smattering of supporters, starved of club rugby. Catching the eye, playing with the senior squad, was 1st team favourite of old, Simon Dempsey, now the Ladies team Coach. Demps did not look out of place with his swerving runs and deft off-loads.
Head Coach and General Manager, Andy Appleyard, was very pleased after the first day’s action: “A fantastic day, for the senior Club to come together, Covid 19 secure, under stage D of the RFU return to play, with a great display of rugby, playing the RFU Ready4Rugby game that has been introduced to Community Rugby Clubs. We saw players from the 1st, 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, Colts and Ladies teams, turn up and play for the 4 houses – The Lions, The Blues, Priory Pirates and Macc Wolf Pack. The Wolf Pack currently sits top, but anything could happen tomorrow. The Mini & Junior sections will take over tomorrow and finish the House Competition, when a winner will be decided.”
Sunday’s rugby started with the Wolf Pack having a one point lead over The Lions. It was all to play for, as the pitches filled with socially distanced Mums and Dads looking on.
Phil Mason, Mini & Junior Manager had this to say: “Sunday saw players from U6 to U16, and the new Girls Rugby Team competing in the same format. With staggered start times to manage numbers and spectators spread across Priory Park in socially distanced ‘bubbles’, some 300 kids saw their first rugby games since March! As with the senior games the speed of the games is frenetic with none of the usual scrums slowing down the pace. The players gave it their all for their ‘house’ and the Pirates took the Mini and Junior prize, and also managed to take the overall title.
These difficult times for sport have thrown up some unusual and difficult challenges for clubs and players. It has been sad to see that Buxton Rugby Club has really struggled during the pandemic and at the moment they are not sure when they might be able to field a competitive side again. What was obvious, over the weekend at Priory Park, was that there is no lack of interest for the game in Macclesfield, with hundreds enjoying their rugby in the fine September sun. There are worries however, throughout the community game that players may get disillusioned if they don’t get back to playing soon. Whilst, at the moment, there is no change to the restart date of 10th October for Macclesfield, it would take a very optimistic view that this could still happen; as the RFU’s staggered stages, of returning to rugby, compress as each week goes by. We live in hope.