While it is not the way Sandbach RUFC hoped to start 2021, the club continues to face the problems caused by Covid-19 with innovation, commitment, and resilience.
Following the Government’s national lockdown announcement to counter the steep rise in infections, all community rugby activity in England has been suspended until further notice. So, in line with current Government policy, all adult and age grade rugby training and fixtures has stopped, as we return to Stage A, on the Return to Community Rugby Roadmap. As a result, the friendly local fixtures scheduled to start in mid-January of an adapted game, have been put on hold, with a return to playing and training very much dictated by the reduction of infections and the effectiveness of the current vaccine rollout.
Despite these problems, there are many examples of the positive things undertaken by the Club in these difficult times, so that they are well placed for when they return to active rugby. Sandbach certainly have made use of their social media profiles, to maintain interest and keep members informed. This has involved setting challenges for the players, developing the club’s coaches and focusing on fitness and strength, as well as fun articles such as past tours, player histories’ and players sponsors. One great success has been the House Challenge, with the club being divided up into four House’s named after senior members of the club. Club President Paddy Davenport was delighted that it was Davenport House, who were the first winners of the House Challenge, as overall he saw a superb effort from right across the club with over 38,147 points scored for running and cycling. This was the equivalent of 458 Marathon’s and 24,027 Miles of Cycling. A special mention for Molly Pipe of the Under 9 squad, the club’s top scoring player, with a whopping 458 points, while Al Bates was the top scoring parent with 843 points, losing half a stone in weight in the process.
Further initiatives have now started with the Lockdown Challenge being the latest as on Saturday 9th January the “Round The Grounds” virtual challenge started. The idea being to start from Bradwall Road and run around all the Premiership rugby grounds a total distance of 1,644 km. Teams are split via age groups and the Senior Squad are keen to take the honours, with 1st XV captain Jimmy Gore informing the club that “We’ve had a couple of zoom meetings this week as a squad to discuss tactics for this challenge and the focus seems to be there. The lads are on day 3 of their carbohydrate loading diets and are upping their electrolyte intake - we want to win this.” Lets see if their actions match his words, with strong competition expected from the Under 9’s and 15’s squads.
Meanwhile the RFU Council voted recently to radically overhaul the format of the community game, to make the season shorter and less travel for leagues. Changes to the league structures for season 2022/23 will see National League One reduced from 16 to 14 clubs, as will National Leagues Two North and South. For clubs at Level 5 one below this, where Sandbach currently reside, leagues will also be capped at 12 teams, with heightened emphasis on regionalisation to cut travel costs and distance. So next season will certainly be an important one for Sandbach if they are to retain their status as the top club in the area. The club will certainly be interested to see exactly how the transition to the new structure will be implemented, as the RFU work through the precise details.