Most of the UK suffered torrential rain on Saturday, but like Clacton the week before, Great Yarmouth was bathed in sunshine for its fourth Beach Rugby tournament, the second of this season’s Eastern Counties Beach Rugby Series.
Broadland-Gt Yarmouth RFC who run the event and Clacton RFC are similar in a lot of ways: Both run two adult sides with the first teams historically playing at Levels 9 or 10, both have worked hard to get their mini & youth sections going in areas with a number of social issues, and both run successful youth festivals at their clubs as well as the beach rugby events.
When I arrived the tournament was in full swing with the local RFU staff in the shape of Penny Chapman and Tim Reed refereeing the games. It was perhaps a little disappointing that there were only thirteen teams taking part, late call offs by some of Broadland’s own teams reducing the expected number, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those competing. As at Clacton last week it was encouraging to see so many women and girls there, some of whom had never played any form of rugby before.
Leah’s All-Starz was one such team made up of friends and family of Leah Wilby, a Great Yarmouth girl who sadly died of cancer in 2011 aged just 15. The team was raising money for The Leah Wilby Foundation which offers holidays to children with cancer and their families at Leah’s Lounge, a modern 6-berth static caravan at Haven Seashore. To find out more please go to http://theleahwilbyfoundation.co.uk
I saw teams from Haverhill and Swaffham but I was surprised that the event wasn’t supported by more clubs in Norfolk. Perhaps there hadn’t been as much publicity as previous years and maybe I should shoulder some of the responsibility for that in my capacity as Leisure Rugby lead. But club Chairman Asa Morrison was upbeat and although he would like to have liked to have seen a few more teams, he wouldn’t want too many as the club’s volunteer base was stretched as it is and it could struggle if it had to deal with the 40 or 50 teams Clacton and Southwold host. Somewhere between 16 and 24 teams would be the ideal number.
Another factor may be that in its first year, Great Yarmouth Beach Rugby was supported by the O2 Scrum on the Beach programme, and teams that came then may be less attracted now that O2 supports community rugby in different ways. And maybe the over-competitive nature of the event in the past couple of years put some clubs off. This was in no way anything Broadland-Gt Yarmouth tried to promote, in fact they would like to see a much more family oriented feel to the day, but regrettably there were some teams who came to Great Yarmouth determined to win and that translated into some less than friendly encounters on the pitch.
This year there was only one all male adult team and the atmosphere was very similar that that at Clacton with winning secondary to enjoyment and taking part, and as the word spreads I would expect to see more clubs entering mixed teams in future years.
Click here for pictures from the tournament
After the games were over, awards were handed out on the beach and I went back to the Broadland-Gt Yarmouth clubhouse to thank some of the volunteers, in particular Pam and Russ Clarke, for their hard work in putting the event on. A number of the club’s players also came back to the clubhouse for the onerous duty of drinking the barrels dry as the clubhouse wouldn’t be in use again until the new season. President Geoff Hawkes was behind the bar and produced half a bottle of chilli vodka which he was selling off at 50p a shot, proceeds going towards the local Children’s ward. Being of Polish parentage and well used to downing vodka, I stood a round of shots for those present – and regretted it almost immediately.
I knocked back the spirit in time-honoured fashion but spent the next fifteen minutes drinking as much ice-cold Fosters as I could. I had no problem with the alcohol but I had underestimated the ferocity of the chilli which set my tongue and throat on fire! Chairman Asa made the mistake of getting some of the firewater onto his lips, while his red face and streaming eyes were a good indicator of how most of us suffered. However, he fared better than at least three others who lost the contents of their stomachs within a few minutes. Fortunately Hilary was on hand to drive me back to Colchester.
Despite the questionable vodka I had another very good day at the seaside. Great Yarmouth Beach Rugby has the potential to grow into Norfolk Rugby’s premier summertime event and I believe Broadland-Gt Yarmouth RFC have the wherewithal to achieve it with a little help from their friends and neighbours.
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