Chang­ing times but South­port are ready

Southport Visiter - - Visiter Life - BY GRA­HAM EL­LIS

WOW! Where do you start? Water­loo Road may not have seen any rugby since May but be­sides the lack of rain for most of the pe­riod, much to grounds­man Shane Cook’s cha­grin, South­port RFC has not let the grass grow un­der its feet.

Much of the sum­mer break has how­ever been shrouded in un­cer­tainty aris­ing from a re­or­gan­i­sa­tion of the First XV league struc­ture and at one stage the club looked for­ward to play­ing clubs in Cumbria.

How­ever, great ef­fort from Chair­man Steve Olive and new Hon­orary Sec­re­tary Bill Ni­chol has seen the Firsts now placed in Lan­cashire & Cheshire Divi­sion One.

And what a strong league this prom­ises to be with fix­tures against strong clubs from last sea­son - Bow­don, Glos­sop, Hoy­lake, Leigh and Sefton along­side Al­trin­cham Ker­sal, Bolton, Fleet­wood, Liver­pool Col­le­giate, Rochdale, Tar­leton and Win­ning­ton Park.

Re­gard­less of the even­tual out­come of which league the team would be play­ing in, last sea­son’s mixed ef­fort showed that the club needed to strengthen through­out to main­tain the progress of re­cent years.

In do­ing so a coach­ing team un­der Neil Ryan, a former Eng­land u20 in­ter­na­tional player and one of the best up and com­ing coaches in the re­gion has been as­sem­bled in­clud­ing se­cur­ing the ser­vices of backs coach and cen­tre Chris Mayor from North Cham­pi­ons Sale FC who had a stel­lar dual-code rugby ca­reer at Wi­gan War­riors, Sale Sharks, Northamp­ton Saints and Wasps. In ad­di­tion he has rep­re­sented Eng­land U21s, Eng­land 7s and the Bar­bar­ians and is joined by ex Or­rell, Greno­ble, Neath, Lon­don Scot­tish and Fylde sec­ond row and Lan­cashire u20 coach Adam Jack­son - now Di­rec­tor of Sport at the club’s iconic sum­mer train­ing base in the grounds of Scaris­brick Hall School.

With a pedi­gree in line with what cur­rent and emerg­ing play­ers wanted in terms of im­prov­ing in­di­vid­ual and team per­for­mance the ef­fect has been im­me­di­ate with in­creased num­bers at train­ing and in­ter­est from qual­ity new play­ers to add to the strength and un­abated spirit of the se­nior squad.

A new first team cap­tain sees born and bred Sand­grounder Dan Whalen elected to take over the man­tle from the ex­cel­lent Joe Mawd­s­ley.

Dan, aged 24, joined the club whilst still a babe in arms at Fa r n b o rough Road and with many of his age group has given un­stint­ing hard work and com­mit­ment whilst pro­gress­ing through the ranks also lay­ing the foun­da­tions within the emerg­ing set up at Birk­dale High School which is now reap­ing re­wards too. Dan even found time this week to make his de­but as a mu­si­cian at the Cheshire Lines in aid of Queen­scourt Hospice. Hav­ing been men­tored over the years by the likes of Joe and the ever­green former Cap­tain and en­dur­ing leg­end Gareth Lang, now ap­proach­ing his 20th sea­son in the First XV, Dan’s vo­cal chords will be put to good use di­rect­ing the play on the field. He is joined by re­tained skip­per An­drew Boland as he looks to build on a solid fin­ish to last sea­son’s cam­paign for the Sec­onds, boosted mas­sively as the emerg­ing Colts pro­gressed seam­lessly into se­nior rugby, like­wise the in­fec­tious Gra­ham White who along with former skip­per, now re­tired through old age and in­jury (although not nec­es­sar­ily in that or­der!) have com­pletely gal­vanised the Third XV set up. So much so that strength in num­bers will mean the club is hop­ing that the Ship­wrecks are able to con­trib­ute to the cause with reg­u­lar Fri­day even­ing fix­tures against like minded op­po­si­tion with fix­tures against the likes of Ch­este and Wilm­slow in the off­ing. The Colts go from strength to strength with this sea­son’s crop find­ing the team placed at the high­est level in the NW and a daunt­ing fix­ture list that goes with it.

The Ladies too, who are now re­cruit­ing for new play­ers, prior to com­menc­ing their sea­son in the RFU Women’s Cham­pi­onship North 2.

Sit­ting be­hind all this is the ex­tra­or­di­nary ef­fort by new Club Cap­tain Ja­son Keat­ing.

Build­ing on the strong foun­da­tions laid by Colin Toohey ‘man moun­tain’ Ja­son has been a whirl­wind of ac­tiv­ity in gal­vanis­ing the club in or­gan­is­ing play­ers, spon­sors, so­cial events even find­ing time to sort out the odd blazer or two.

Also su­perb com­mit­ment by cur­rent and new com­mer­cial part­ners led by lo­cal com­pany EFT and oth­ers with their name on the smart new kit em­brac­ing the tra­di­tional red, black and am­ber hoops.

With all the first team matches spo­ken for there are still op­por­tu­ni­ties with the other teams, pitch side boards, mem­o­ra­bilia and other ini­tia­tives.

A men­tion too for the un­sung vol­un­teers through­out the club with­out whom none of this can hap­pen in­clud­ing the Ex­ec­u­tive led by the re­lent­less Chair­man Steve Olive in pur­su­ing and back­ing plans on and off the field within and beyond South­port in­clud­ing es­tab­lish­ing re­la­tion­ships with lo­cal schools, col­leges, em­ploy­ers and Edge Hill Univer­sity.

South­port RFC is proud that the Pres­i­dent of the Stu­dents Union Joe Brad­ford and the First XV cap­tain James Wright will again be play­ing for the club through­out the sea­son.

With all this the at­ten­tion now rightly turns to Satur­day and Sun­day to the pitch with the Firsts and Thirds at Fleet­wood and West Park re­spec­tively, the Sec­onds at home to Fleet­wood.

On Sun­day the Colts are away at Caldy. We’re un­der starters or­ders!

An­gus Mathe­son

South­port RFC in ac­tion against Hoy­lake last sea­son and (inset) the new strip

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