Woodbridge Rugby in the community
21 August 2013
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Finding some local rugby to watch is not easy in mid-August but on Sunday I went to Woodbridge to watch the finals of the Seckford Shield. I got there at 3:30pm to see about 100 men and women in eight teams playing touch rugby in the lovely setting of Hatchley Barn, and there were at least that number again enjoying the games, the beer and a barbecue. All useful income for the club in a traditionally barren time financially.
I’ve visited Woodbridge on and off for many years but in more recent times I’ve seen the club grow both on the field and off it, and the key seems to be its welcoming attitude to all forms of the game. Back in 2005 a group of women rugby players, disenchanted with the lack of support at their club, found a new home at Woodbridge and now the Amazons are comfortably the leading Ladies side in Suffolk. This success has seen the establishment of a Girls squad, the Valkyries, to provide a ready source of players to the adult team.
The next initiative was to get the local community involved with the club; this needed some imagination as the ground is about six miles from the town centre. They came up with the idea of a summer touch rugby tournament with local pubs and businesses entering teams. Games were played over several weeks at different venues around the area and the final week would be at Woodbridge RFC.
This was a joint project with Suffolk Coastal District Council and Sportivate and Sunday was the climax of the third year of the competition for the Seckford Shield. Chatting to some of the players and club members I found out that about 40% of those taking part had no previous connection with the Rugby Club. Although it is unlikely that many of these men and women will translate into 15-a-side players there is a good chance that a proportion will be involved with the club at some time in the future.
The latest community project for Woodbridge Rugby Club is Wheelchair Rugby. The interest in this form of the game has increased dramatically since its appearance at the London Olympics and when the governing body for Wheelchair Rugby was looking for regional centres the Club looked for ways it could lend its support. Wheelchair Rugby training now happens at the nearby Rock barracks on Sunday mornings with players coming from all over East Anglia to take part.
The club runs two adult mens sides but the youth and mini section has grown to the extent that land for a third pitch was purchased a few years ago and last year a changing room extension was opened. Work has started on extending the social area to accommodate all the children on a Sunday morning and there is a real sense of optimism for the future at what is one of the friendliest clubs in Eastern Counties.
Woodbridge Rugby Club website