Their dedication to grass-roots talent and coaching is making them one of the most successful sporting teams in the whole county. Charlotte Thorneycroft talks to West Norfolk Rugby Union Football Club…
With its smart clubhouse building and ten acres of grounds (consisting of three full-size pitches) it’s hard to imagine that West Norfolk Rugby Club’s first base in King’s Lynn was a room in the Duke’s Head Hotel, having moved to the town in 1930 from Swaffam where it was estatblished in 1925.
After the war the club moved again, to the Red Cat Hotel in North Wootton, from where players would make the long walk to their pitch on the marshes after changing in the outbuildings of the hotel. Developing as a club (as it continues to do so today) the site used by West Norfolk RUFC today was acquired in the 1960s when a need for further facilities became essential with two teams playing regularly.
A strong period of growth for the club continued through the 1970s and early ‘80s when the adult playing side increased to four teams as well veterans. It was at this point the club also started the under 19’s Colts team – the only rugby club in the area to do so. Equal focus has been put on both the senior and junior side of the club with dedicated coaching (by RFU qualification holders) and support for each section.
Given the title of ‘Mini Rugby’ by West Norfolk Rugby Club, children younger than the under nines team play an introductory game known as tag rugby. Unlike the proper game – which comes with more than a little rough and tumble – tag rugby enables children to learn the key skills involved with the sport without making actual contact. Passing, how to move, tactics and most importantly scoring are all taught to the youngsters through tag rugby where they also learn the value of cooperation and teamwork on the pitch.
Annette Edris is spokesperson for West Norfolk RUFC and thinks rugby is the perfect sport for children of all ages.
“There are so many roles within rugby, everyone (regardless of size or ability) has a part to play,” she says.”
“Few sports are as inclusive as rugby and the conduct of the players (out of respect for one another and the game, not because they are told to) sets a great example to anyone who is new to the sport. Come to a game as a spectator and it’s an obvious reflection in the attitude of the crowds.”
As the young players develop within the game they progress to the youth teams, where the early stage skills are being rewarded with great success for the club.
Many of the club’s talented teens also play for the county and some the Eastern Counties Elite Player squad.
In particular, the 2010 under 16’s team was able to boast some fantastic achievements with one player going to Wasps, another going on to the Bedford Rugby Academy, one securing a place at the Leicester Tigers Academy (and also recently playing for the England under 16’s) and one player now playing international rugby for the Belgium under 18’s!
The three senior teams are also regularly active and showing success each season. With the Rugby Union season not starting until September, West Norfolk RUFC decided for the first time in 2011 to play rugby league over the summer.
So far the extra training has paid off well with the league team – the West Norfolk Wildcats – winning two of the three games played. And it isn’t just the fans who are impressed by the club’s recent achievements – in June the West Norfolk Rugby Club was awarded the Rugby Football Union (governing body of English Rugby) Whole Club Seal of Approval. This prestigious award recognises best practice in coaching, safeguarding of children and overall good management of the club, its players and facilities.
“It’s a really big thing for a club as small as West Norfolk to have won this award,” says Annette.
“We’re only the second club in the Eastern Counties to have received this from the RFU so we’re all very proud.”
West Norfolk RUFC welcomes anyone who would like to become a member – whether to learn, play or just spectate. Membership details, along with upcoming fixtures and events can all be found on the club’s official website at www.westnorfolkrugby.com KL