Monday, 1 October 2012

Jarrovians RUFC - A Diamond in the Rough

‘It doesn’t get more grass roots than Jarrovians RUFC’ read a piece on the internet when describing north east clubs. This statement has always sounded a little harsh but can be understood somewhat if you don’t know the full story and history of the team.

The fact that a rugby club even exists in Jarrow may come as a surprise to most. A shipbuilding town known primarily for the 1936 march, musician Alan Price of The Animals and world champion athlete and now BBC commentator Steve Cram, rugby has never made a major impact on the consciousness of the town. Indeed there still remains some within South Tyneside who are blissfully unaware of the clubs existence. But exist they do and what a club they are.

Formed in 1978 when a few players from Hebburn Technical College decided to start their own team, Jarrovians has had an almost rollercoaster existence. From its creation the club quickly grew to two teams and had moderate success during the 80’s. It’s most successful period came in the early 90’s. Now running a total of three teams and a colts side, Jarrovians gained promotion in 1991 only to have that taken away from them when the leagues were restructured that summer. Promotion would be gained again later in the decade but amazingly the same outcome would befall the club.

The club’s fortunes would start to dwindle as the century closed. Three teams would become two and the new century did not alter the downward spiral. Jarrovians were now struggling to fulfil two fixtures and with league games being some of these games to be cancelled, eventually the painful decision to withdraw from league competitions was taken.

After one season out of league competition the club attempted a return. It was an attempt which ended within a couple of months, injuries and the loss of key players on the eve of the new season, coupled with close but demoralising defeats proved too much and the club took the decision to once again drop out of the league, this time however vowing not to return for at least three seasons. It was a decision that would prove genius.

At this point the playing staff of the club was made up of a lot of experienced players, most of whom were heading to the end of their playing careers. However the following summer would see an influx of a few, young, talented players join the club and the following season saw the club compete, and compete well, in the Durham Junior ‘Second Team’ League. On top of this the club ‘inherited’ two teams at the Midi/Junior level, creating the club’s first ever Junior section.

The colts side that existed during the 91 season existed for just a few years. It was followed 6 years later by another side, which again lasted for just a few years. So the introduction of a youth setup was a new and exciting venture, one which the members of the club have risen to with their usual determination and good humour. It hasn’t always gone smoothly. With most having no knowledge of the youth side of the game a lot of what followed was trial and error, and the loss of one of the ‘inherited’ sides due to loss of players and the problem of guaranteeing games was a significant blow. But it did not dampen spirits and much like the senior arm of the club, newer players at various age groups started to slowly appear.

Off the field the club had finally, for the first time in their history, secured a clubhouse of their own. After match entertainment had always been held at various pubs around Jarrow and Hebburn up to this point so the coming of a small, yet comfortable, permanent base of operations was a massive feather in the cap. It allowed the club to grow, attracting new players and members, bringing a small but steady flow of income into the club and providing a safe environment for the Juniors and has continued to do so.

Back on the field the club continued to grow and improve. As vowed they didn’t look to re-entering official RFU competition and continued to look at improving and recruiting. Two further seasons of challenging for honours in the Second Team League however and this decision could not be ignored any longer. And so in 2011-2012 it was with a great sense of optimism and excitement that Jarrovians RUFC re-took their place in Durham and Northumberland Division 3.

The season that followed saw Jarrovians confound the critics and finish 6th out of the 12 teams. Along the way they played some great stuff, culminating in a great victory over already promoted Seaham. The Junior Section also continued to grow with numbers reaching just below 50, the highest level since its formation. Games took place at three different age groups, a first for the club, and in another first the club fielded two girls in a game. Further firsts saw the club host the U9 County Cup as well as their own Sevens tournament.

This season sees the club hoping to consolidate it’s position in the league while at the same time continuing their growth and improvement in both Senior and Junior sections. As normal with Jarrovians it won’t be easy but the members will strive to achieve this with their usual good humour and friendly demeanour. Anyone wanting to be part of this exciting era is always more than welcome. Training sessions for Seniors take place at their Luke Lanes base every Thursday night at 6.30 with games on a Saturday afternoon. The Juniors take to the field every Sunday at 10am with all age groups from U6 up to U17 training and playing in a safe, fun environment.

Grass roots they may be but if you search among that grass you’ll come across a small gem, a shining light of North East rugby who encompass everything that is good and great in the game, a real diamond in the rough!

(Article originally appeared in the Newcastle Falcons v Leeds Carneige programme - Friday 28th September 2012)

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