A small club with big ideas
9 December 2012
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After four consecutive weekends at Twickenham it was a real pleasure to get back to watching some grass-roots rugby again. I travelled to Swaffham RFC in the middle of Norfolk, a club that that inexplicably I had yet to visit, although I had been there for a couple of meetings over the years.
The visit was almost postponed when I heard that Swaffham’s league opponents had called off on Friday evening but fortunately Norwich Medics were also without a game and they agreed to play instead. A good thing too as there were around 30 VPs gathered for a festive pre-match lunch.
The club is comparatively young having been founded in 1981 but it has always been forward looking. In 2001 the current clubhouse was opened thanks to a substantial grant from the National Lottery and floodlights were put up about the same time. Despite playing at a modest level in Eastern Counties Two it has a well established mini & youth section with the over half the current first team coming up through the ranks. I’m sure this is a major factor in their sitting at the top of the league and favourites to be promoted to Eastern Counties One for the first time in their history.
The club has one of those rarities, a club chairman who still turns out to play regularly. I persuaded Ian ‘Spike’ Milligan to forsake his duties with the second team to be at the lunch (his first!) and it gave him the opportunity to watch his son play at full-back. Spike has been a driving force for the club in terms of youth development and behind them getting RFU Accredited Club status and I was delighted to present President Tony Potter with a plaque and certificates during the lunch.
The game against Norwich Medics was an entertaining one with Swaffham winning 36-7 although they didn’t have things all their way in the first half. I enjoyed the banter on the touchline and spoke to a number of the supporters. It was particularly good to see Bill Rollings, a founder member of the club and a stalwart of Eastern Counties Rugby.
Before I left I invested in a copy of Eric Nye’s ‘A History of Swaffham RUFC 1981-2012’. I have had a flick through and it is genuinely a good read for anyone interested in Norfolk Rugby and how a group of committed volunteers created, nurtured and developed a club from nothing to one that earns countywide respect.
Pictures from the game