GARFC AGM Chairmans report 8th July

After what has been a very different year for all of us First and foremost we remember those past players and members that have died over the past year. We haven’t been able to celebrate their lives in ways that we normally would through commemorative matches, or raising a glass at a president or vets dinner, so lets do that now to remember the following:

  • Ken Fisher
  • John Hancock
  • Andy Hoskens
  • Connor Russon
  • Arthur Scudder

This will be the first year since probably the second world war where a Chairman has taken on a role and not overseen a club that has played even one fixture under full code rugby Union. It has been an immensely challenging year for the club and all its members.

As a committee we all worry about those that have drifted away over the past season, with no game time, and training that’s been necessarily oriented towards no or low contact rugby.  In the wider membership we have seen many of our supporters ans sponsors continue with loyalty knowing that they would not see the benefit of their support, and our gratitude is immense to all of those friends, but there are also many that for different reasons stopped. We have wrapped around many of those we know well to keep in touch and ensure that the club is reaching out.  So as we emerge from this horrible year and a half and approach next season we look forward with a degree of nervousness about how we will fare as both from a membership and a financial situation things are far from clear. We know that this is true for all clubs, and have been tying in with clubs across the county throughout this last year.

BUT we should have optimism, real optimism. Just come up to training and look at what is going on. 30+ lads all playing a great fluid style of rugby, mostly lads in their early twenties. We have attracted players from other parts of the county because they enjoy the club, and like what they have joined. All credit to our new Coach Rob who has come with fresh ideas, and a new game system that has brought real energy and fast paced play into the squad. Backed up ably by Pete with the coaching and our great new Physio Sue we have seen consistently high turnout whenever we’ve been allowed and just look at the style of the rugby we played at the recent return to rugby restricted games, it was a pleasure to observe.

We should have optimism about the Youth sides. Going from Strength to strength we have an excellent leader in Simon Summerset, and an able group of coaches. We are regularly seeing both boys and girls at training and the feedback from the parents about the friendliness and inclusiveness of the club is just magnificent.

We should have optimism about the forthcoming season. We have continued training whilst many stopped. We are about to start a season where there is plenty of legacy with the clubs we are playing but no-one has a clue how each of the teams will emerge ready to play again. Its wide open, so forget legacy and lets just aim to smash this league.

The Committee all deserve mention for their tireless efforts to manage the club over the last year: Steve Kyle, Ian Brenton, Will Rush, Simon Summerset, Tony Shand, and Nick Turner all of whom in different roles and capacities have more than put in a shift to keep the club going. But special mention is deserved for Bob Bursey, who not only has been the head groundsman, but has managed our accounts in the absence of a volunteer. Bob has been responsible for a very successful bid to the RFU to gain a government grant to negate our net losses between October and March. This has meant that we effectively have been able to stay solvent and indeed in a relatively good position despite huge reductions in our income from the normal sources.

Has anyone looked at the grounds recently? … look at them. They have never been so good. Just a superb effort by the grounds team, all volunteers up here every week, rain or shine (mostly shine), keeping the grass down, the litter cleared, the posts replaced, the lines marked. Players and visitors have described this as the best pitch in the county and they are right, we should be immensely proud and grateful to the team.  The lack of playing time, rucks and mauls has maybe benefited their recovery but nevertheless it is only hard work that gets the results it has.

And of course there is no club without players and I am so grateful to all the players that have been supporting the club throughout a year of training with little game time. Without that we could well have faced a very uncertain future

Our goal with Rob Dengate is to get to three regular sides again. We are confident we will pack out two sides with fit fast and powerful players and need the third development squad supported by some older hands to be filling and fighting for those places. We need to be an ever more welcoming, friendly and inclusive club. We need to close the gap between Committee and Players. The committee should not be the old retired boy governing the activities of those that play, we need to be more directed by the players but with that we need Players to play their part, and step up into leadership roles, take on responsibilities and make the club the club they want to be part of. More hands make light work.

So there is lots of light at the end of that tunnel and I very much hope to be here with you all this time next year celebrating again a very different year but this time for all the right reasons.

Andy Pritchard

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